A BUSINESSMAN who blew the whistle on a billion- pound fraud cover up has spoken of the moment he was fired in a new BBC documentary – on TV tonight.

Michael Woodford, 54, from Thorpe Bay, was first with Southend-based KeyMed before working his way up through the ranks to become president and then chief executive of its parent company Olympus in Japan.

However, just two weeks into the job he helped expose one of the biggest and longest-running losshiding arrangements in Japanese corporate history, which is now the subject of the Storyville documentary, 1.7 Billion Dollar Fraud: Full Exposure, which is on BBC Four at 10.15pm tonight.

Opening with a monologue from Mr Woodford, he describes the day he was called into the Olympus boardroom in Japan, to be fired by chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa.

He said: “Even telling you this nowmy hands are cold and sweaty.”

Following his sacking, the issue snowballed into a scandal over concealment of around £1.1billion of investment losses.

While the matter was a huge global business story, it was not widely publicised and documentary director, Hyoe Yamamoto, who lived in the country at the time the story broke, wanted to expose it to a wider audience.

Mr Woodford added: “In Japan hardly anyone gets fired – even less so the president of a company, it is almost unheard of.

“Why were they acting like that? What were they scared of?

“Something more serious than me going public?”

Mr Woodford now runs the Safer Roads Foundation and last year contributed funding to a project to install a pedestrian crossing outside Shoebury High School.


“I FELT scared. Even telling you this now, my hands are cold and sweaty.

“Every time I tell people what happened I can feel myself going back into that period.

“I went into the boardroom at a few minutes to 9am and everyone was already there.

“They were talking nervously, louder than normal, and no one was making eye contact with me.

“The one person who was not in the room was Kikukawa, the Olympus chairman.

“I was feeling that I am not going to sit here waiting for my execution indefinitely so I was looking at my watch in an exaggerated manner and Mori (vice president) looked over to me and he could see I was getting agitated.

“He said to me, ‘Michael it must have been very hard for you yesterday in Tohoku, visiting where the tsunami struck’.

“I felt this overwhelming sense of revulsion and disgust in the man.

“He knew what was going to happen and he was choosing this
subject to humour me and distract me.

“I said, ‘Mori’, I dropped the san, a term of respect. I said, ‘stop playing with me. I know what you are going to do, get on with it’.

“He was shocked and scuttled off to go and get his master, who finally turned up at 9.07am.

“He read out the first resolution, saying Woodward was stripped of his presidency, his CEO status and as a representative director. 

“Before he had finished all the directors around the table had put their hands up, physically pushing to the sky.

“It reminded me of children in a classroom.”