Removed board of Philippine casino sues Japanese tycoon Okada after the resort was detained

Universal Entertainment Corp. founder Kazuo Okada attends a press conference at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan, September 14, 2017. REUTERS / Issei Kato

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MANILA, June 6 (Reuters) – The removed board of the largest casino in the Philippines said on Monday that it was suing Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada and his partners, accusing them of coercion and other violations of what he described as “violent and illegal”. detention by the gambling resort last week.

In a dramatic twist in the long-running dispute over control of Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, owned by Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp (6425.T), the Okada camp took physical control of a $ 3.3 billion casino known as Okada Manila on May 31 with the help of private security and local police.

The move came after the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a “preliminary order of the status quo” in April, restoring Okada, who was ousted in 2017 as the casino’s chief executive. This followed a decision by the country’s Court of Appeals in January to dismiss the embezzlement charge against Okada and his aide.

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The removed Tiger Resorts board appealed the Supreme Court’s decision in April, and his legal adviser said Monday that there was nothing in the court’s decision authorizing the Okada camp to seize physical control or set up a new board. It also seeks clarification from the Supreme Court on its order.

Okada’s group used “brute force and intimidation” to seize the property on May 31, Michiaki Satate, co-chair of the demolished Tiger Resort, told a news conference.

“At the moment, this is an illegitimate board and a set of employees who run the business,” Satate said, adding that the parent company of the casino operator will not respect any business transactions made by the new board.

Universal, whose shares fell 10 percent since the takeover, also called the casino’s seizure an “illegal occupation.”

Okada, who was not physically present at the time of the seizure, as well as his partners Antonio Kozhuangko and Dindo Espeleta and the private security company they hired were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

They are accused of forcibly removing Universal director Hajime Tokuda from the casino and taking him to an area near his home in what the downed board called a kidnapping. They are also accused of harming other company employees in complaints ranging from “severe coercion” and “unfair annoyance”.

Vincent Lim, a spokesman for Okada Manila’s current leadership, said Monday: “There was no violent incident” during the takeover. Lim did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

Officials from the Philippine Games regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), attended the takeover to observe the event. However, PAGCOR said it wanted to emphasize its neutrality in the dispute, as the matter is still before the court.

Okada is currently in Japan. He was also fired from Universal’s board in 2017, with directors accusing him of embezzling $ 20 million, which he denied.

Okada Manila with an area of ​​44 hectares (108 acres), located next to the Bay of Manila, has 993 apartments and villas, 500 table games and 3000 electronic gaming machines. It is the largest of the four multi-billion dollar casino resorts operating in the country, which has one of the freest gaming industries in Asia.

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Report by Neil Jerome Morales; Edited by Edwina Gibbs

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