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Britain levels fraud charges against Japan’s Olympus

Olumpus’s stock price plummeted after revelations of fraud but has since recovered to pre-scandal levels.

EPA/File 2013

Olumpus’s stock price plummeted after revelations of fraud but has since recovered to pre-scandal levels.

TOKYO — Britain is set to prosecute Olympus, the Japanese manufacturer embroiled in a $1.7 billion accounting fraud two years ago, after a Japanese court limited its verdict to modest fines and suspended sentences for several executives.

Olympus and its British unit, Gyrus, will be prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office over false financial statements in 2009 and 2010 in an alleged breach of Britain’s Companies Act, the company said.

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Olympus, based in Tokyo, admitted in 2011 that it had operated an elaborate, long-running scheme to cover up $1.7 billion in losses after its newly installed chief executive, Michael C. Woodford, blew the whistle on irregular accounting practices. The internal allegations led Olympus to fire Woodford, a British national. But he went public and has since submitted evidence to British, US, and Japanese investigators.

In Japan, three Olympus executives got suspended sentences and the company was fined $7 million. Olympus faced separate fines of $1.92 million from Japan’s Financial Services Agency and $100,234 from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Olympus, a maker of medical endoscopes and digital cameras, settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by Woodford over unfair dismissal.

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