Olympus Bosses Avoid Jail Time for $1.7 Billion Fraud

Wednesday, 3 Jul 2013 | 6:07 AM ET
President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa admitted guilt Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 in the cover-up scandal. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File)
President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa admitted guilt Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 in the cover-up scandal. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File)

The executives involved in the scandal surrounding Japanese camera maker Olympus have been given suspended sentences for their role in the accounting fraud.

Former Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who was forced to resign over accounting irregularities, was given a suspended three-year jail sentence for his part in the $1.7 billion cover up. Former executive vice-president Hisashi Mori was given a three-year suspended sentence and Hideo Yamada, a former auditing officer, was given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence.

All three pleaded guilty last year to falsifying accounts and hiding huge losses at the firm over a period of more than 20 years. The fraud came to light in 2011 after Michael Woodford, the company's CEO, blew the whistle on the company. Woodford was subsequently sacked and he sued Olympus for unfair dismissal. He settled his suit with the company last year.

(Read More: Japan's 'Abenomics' Will Fail: Ex-Olympus CEO)

Contacted by CNBC on Wednesday, Woodford declined to comment on the sentencing of his former colleagues.

"I've written and spoken extensively about the Olympus scandal. The lessons of this sad tale should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention, and I do so hope that people in Japan are paying attention," he said.

Ex-Olympus CEO: Japan Is Dysfunctional
Michael Woodford, author of Exposure and former CEO of Olympus, talks to CNBC about the Olympus fraud and the larger challenges of working in Japanese companies.

Woodford has been campaigning for greater transparency and a change in Japanese business culture, which he said has led to the decline of Japanese companies.

(Read More: Short Japan Over Its Business Culture: Ex-Olympus CEO)

"I have a great affection and fondness for Japan and want to see the country move forward as I do for myself and my family," he said on Wednesday.

Woodford received a settlement from Olympus in June last year, reported to be in the region of 10 million pounds ($15.3 million). He has published a book about his time as CEO of Olympus, "Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower."

By CNBC.com's Matt Clinch; Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81

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