Olympus Probe Figure Sagawa Headed to Cayman, Relative Says

Hajime Sagawa, the Japanese banker whose firms got $687 million in fees as part of Olympus Corp.’s $2.1 billion buyout of Gyrus Group Plc, has left Florida for the Cayman Islands, his brother-in-law said, a month after Sagawa divorced his wife and sold her their Boca Raton home for $10.

Sagawa hasn’t made a statement since ousted President Michael Woodford disclosed Tokyo-based Olympus paid fees equal to 36 percent of the value of the 2008 deal to two companies connected with the Japanese banker. The camera and medical device maker used the payments as part of a scheme to hide 117.7 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in losses, according to the findings of a monthlong independent probe of the company’s accounts that was released yesterday.

“He’s down in the Cayman Islands,” Gary Nevis, Sagawa’s brother-in-law, said in a Dec. 1 telephone interview, citing a conversation he had last week with his sister, Sagawa’s ex-wife.

Criminal investigators in the U.S., U.K. and Japan are probing fees and other payments made by Olympus. Woodford was in New York last week to meet with U.S. prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sagawa has also met with the FBI, according to the Wall Street Journal. He hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing.

“There were outside collaborators” who helped Olympus set up a web of offshore entities and who structured takeovers to channel money through these to cancel out investment losses that dated back decades, the panel report said. The advisers did so “knowing they were illegal,” it said.

Caymans, Snapper

Axes America LLC, a New York-based brokerage that Sagawa operated, served as an adviser to Olympus on the Gyrus deal. Axam Investments Ltd., a Cayman Islands-based fund of which Sagawa was a director, got all but $17 million of the $687 million in fees. Axam was, in fact, funneling money back to Olympus through five other companies, according to the report.

Sagawa’s ex-wife, Ellen Sagawa, is still living in Boca Raton, Florida, in the 7,217 square-foot, canal-front house that the couple co-owned until October. She declined to comment Dec. 4 on her husband’s whereabouts. A 32.6-foot yacht named “Snapper” registered to her was docked behind the home.

Nevis said his sister provided no other details as to her husband’s location. Sagawa’s neighbors in Boca Raton said they had seen Ellen Sagawa in recent days strolling through the neighborhood without her husband.

Sagawa may have been living in the Caymans at an oceanfront condominium along Seven Mile Beach in 2006. According to shipping records, a package was sent under his name to Boca Raton that year from the residence on Snooze Lane. A woman answering the door there yesterday said Sagawa hasn’t been living there since at least February.

Divorce Filed

Sagawa and his wife filed for divorce in Florida Oct. 31, with Ellen Sagawa retaining $9.9 million of the couple’s assets and Sagawa keeping $1.5 million, according to court records. On Oct. 25, Sagawa transferred the Boca Raton home to his wife for $10, according to real estate records.

Nevis said that his sister last week didn’t mention that the couple had divorced.

“She didn’t mention a divorce or anything like that,” Nevis said. “She didn’t indicate there were problems.”

Nevis, who sells Lindal Cedar Homes in Arizona, said he hadn’t visited the Sagawas in Florida for several years. He said Sagawa was “a friendly man” who on Wall Street earned “a whole heck of a lot more than I ever did.”

From 1981 to 1996, Sagawa worked at Nomura Securities International Inc., Sanyo Securities America Inc. and PaineWebber Inc. before starting Axes America in 1998, according to regulatory filings.

Herman Moskowitz, a Hollywood, Florida-based accountant who has done work for another Sagawa firm, and Clifford Hark, a lawyer in Palm Beach, Florida, who has also worked for Sagawa, declined to discuss the banker.

Olympus Adviser

Beginning in 2006, Axes America served as adviser to Olympus in its acquisition of Gyrus. Sagawa was president of Axes America and part-owner of an affiliated firm, Axes (Japan) Securities, according to the firm’s website from 2008. Sagawa was also a director of Axam Investments, according to a report on the Gyrus transaction by PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal LLP, which was made public by Woodford.

Axam was beneficiary of an assignment agreement on June 2008 under which it became entitled to rights previously held by Axes America. It was paid a total of $670 million from Olympus in September 2008 and March 2010, according to the panel report.

Neither Axes America nor Axam is still in business. In the Gyrus transaction, Axes America hired Perella Weinberg Partners LP as its sub-adviser, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kara Findlay, a spokeswoman for Perella Weinberg, has declined to comment on the Olympus case. Axes America paid Perella $8.57 million, it said in its final liquidation report to the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2009.

Going Wrong

Olympus began making financial investments after 1985 as a strong yen hurt operating profit, the panel said. When Japan’s stock-market bubble burst at the end of 1989, the company purchased high-risk products and structured bonds in an effort to recoup the loss. In late 1990, the company had a little less than 100 billion yen of unrealized losses.

Olympus is “cooperating fully with investigators” including the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, spokesman Tsuyoshi Kitada said Dec. 5, declining to elaborate further.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE