Michael Woodford, the former chief executive of Olympus Corp. admits to being apprehensive as he packs his bags to return to Japan for the first time since blowing the cover off one of the country's most high-profile corporate scandals.
It is a little scary to go back but I have started on this journey and plan to finish it, he wrote in an email copied to Reuters on Tuesday.
Fired last month for demanding to know why the board had approved around $1.3 billion worth of obscure fees and deals, the British Olympus veteran of 31-years fled Japan amid fears the money trail might lead to Japan's yakuza organised crime syndicates.
Since then, armed with reams of documents, he has led a hectic one-man campaign to swing the spotlight on the once-venerable camera and endoscope maker's accounts, urging the global media and international prosecutors to investigate.
As regulators, prosecutors and organised-crime police pore over Olympus, major foreign shareholders have called for Woodford to be reinstated at the helm of a company that has lost about 65 percent of its market value since the scandal hit.
But sitting in London sifting through tonnes of emails from people clamouring for contact, Woodford said he thought it highly unlikely the board would take the opportunity of his return to reinstate him.
I really don't think so, he said. He said he felt cautious on the eve of the trip, but noted he was satisfied security arrangements would be appropriate.
Woodford's return to Japan is expected to be in stark contrast to the 51-year-old's speedy departure last month, when Olympus executives told him to take the bus to the airport.
Japanese and international media are expected to be out in force when he lands on Wednesday ahead of meetings not only with Tokyo police, prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) regulator -- but the Olympus board that unanimously fired him. [ID:nL4E7MM01C]
Despite his sacking, Woodford remains a board director -- as do two of the men who have since admitted to covering up securities investment losses for two decades: former chairman and president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and former vice president Hisashi Mori. [ID:nL4E7M80LI]
Woodford said he did not know whether Kikukawa and Mori would also attend the board meeting, saying only: If they are, something will be very wrong.
Having also long called for the whole board to resign -- saying it either knew about shady deals or failed in its duty to question and hold Kikukawa and Mori to account -- Woodford has conceded there will be an uncomfortable moment when he meets his board colleagues on Friday.
But he said: I will just be stressing that to move forward, the company needs to address its past in a thorough and comprehensive way. That's the only way we'll get confidence and the right platform from which to move ahead.
Woodford will fly directly from Tokyo to New York for meetings with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulators, who are all investigating Olympus.
(Additional reporting by Alexander Smith; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)