The Court of Appeals in the Philippines has affirmed its December decision that dismissed ‘estafa’ – i.e., fraud – charges against Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada and an associate, Takahiro Usui, relating to the company that was set up to run the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippine capital.
In a separate development, on May 31, representatives of Mr Okada physically occupied and took over Okada Manila, a property he launched, but from which he had been cut adrift in 2017, amid fraud claims.
The Court of Appeals ruling – dated July 6 – on particular allegations of fraud, also affirmed the quashing of arrest warrants against Mr Okada and Mr Usui in relation to the matter.
The fraud allegation was of misappropriation of more than US$3 million from Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), operator of Okada Manila.
The control of TRLEI is currently being disputed in the country’s Supreme Court, between Mr Okada and Universal Entertainment Corp, the Japanese conglomerate he founded and led until he was ousted in 2017. At that time, he had also been ousted from the board of TRLEI.
The latter company had accused Mr Okada of using for himself – without the TRLEI board’s permission – an aggregate of just under US$944,000 across April and May 2017, and before that, just over US$2.2 million in consultancy fees between November 2016 and March 2017.
Mr Usui had been accused of facilitating payments from TRLEI funds to Mr Okada. The latter maintained he lawfully earned the money involved.
In another development, in late April the Philippine Supreme Court issued an order restoring the composition of the TRLEI board to how it was before Mr Okada’s ousting.
Mr Okada regarded that ruling as grounds for May 31’s physical takeover of the Okada Manila.
Universal Entertainment said in a Tuesday statement that it would pursue a criminal complaint in Hong Kong against Mr Okada and what it termed his “collaborators”, in relation to the Okada Manila takeover.
Universal Entertainment issued a follow-up statement on Thursday about the Okada Manila situation, including comments attributed to the Japanese group’s president, Jun Fujimoto.
It referred to the pending request to the Philippine Supreme Court to overturn the court’s April order on the restoration of the TRLEI board in Mr Okada’s favour: “We at Universal Entertainment Corp formally and respectfully appeal to the Philippine Supreme Court and government agencies for their support and swift action. We are confident that the pieces of evidence that we have provided to the honourable court will speak volumes in the correctness of our position,” it cited Mr Fujimoto as saying.
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"We warn the cross-border gambling crime suspects to stop their criminal acts, to return to the country, and turn themselves in so that they could still be granted lenient treatment"
Spokesman from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs