Woodford begins battle against unfair dismissal

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The Independent Online

Michael Woodford, the British whistleblower sacked from Japanese cameras and endoscopes giant Olympus begins his multi-million pound unfair dismissal case against the company at a London tribunal today.

Mr Woodford, who was the first westerner to work his way up to the top of a Japanese company, is to sue for up to 10 years' lost pay, citing UK laws on unfair dismissal for whistleblowing and discrimination. He was ousted from his job as chief executive after questioning the board about a $1.7 billion fraud. Rather than act on his concerns, the Olympus board unanimously voted to sack him.

His legal team will argue that he should be able to take his legal action in the UK because he remained an employee of Olympus's UK division despite being based in Tokyo. The hearing is scheduled for five days.

Olympus sacked Mr Woodford at a board meeting at which he was banned from speaking and confiscated his mobile phone. He was ordered to quit his apartment and take the bus to the airport. But, instead, Woodford had a clandestine meeting with a journalist in a Tokyo park, handed over documents and told his story.

At first, Olympus said he had been sacked because he did not understand the company's culture, but less than a day later, the fraud was uncovered and criminal investigations in Japan, the US and the UK were launched. An independent inquiry in Japan described the Olympus board as "rotten".

Mr Woodford, named The Independent's Businessman of the Year for 2011, declined to comment ahead of the hearing.