Kazuo Okada’s side is for now able to stay in occupation of the Okada Manila casino resort in the Philippine capital, after a panel of the country’s Supreme Court declined either to overturn a “status quo ante order” (SQAO) regarding the board of a company set up to run the resort, or specifically to rule against the way Mr Okada’s side had interpreted the order as permission for physical takeover.
Instead, the court’s statement of August 10 – filed on Wednesday (August 17) – said the merits of the arguments put by opposing sides in the matter would be referred to the country’s Court of Appeals. That body must, within 30 days of receiving the resolution from the Supreme Court, report back on the matter.
Entities linked to Japanese conglomerate Universal Entertainment Corp and to Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), firms founded by Mr Okada but from which he was ousted in June 2017, accused of fraud, had petitioned against Mr Okada’s physical takeover of Okada Manila on May 31.
They argued that an April 27 Supreme Court order to restore the board of TRLEI to how it was before Mr Okada was ejected, was not a green light for his occupation of the gaming resort premises.
The Supreme Court said in its August 10 finding that the status quo ante order “was properly issued in accordance with law and jurisprudence”.
The bench observed that while the Universal Entertainment side “questions the propriety of issuing the SQAO, claiming that it was issued on the basis of Kazuo’s blatant falsehoods and misrepresentations,” the court considered that “the contentions have no merit”.
It also stated that claims that the occupation of Okada Manila by Mr Okada’s side amounted to causing a “chilling effect on foreign investments and alleged serious damage to shareholders,” were regarded by the court as “speculative and unsubstantiated”.
But the court did say the status quo ante order “must be implemented strictly based on the language of the order and in the context of the nature of an SQAO, i.e., to restore the parties to the last, actual, peaceable and uncontested state of things that preceded the controversy.”
The court added that “disruption is never the intent of the SQAO”.
Remedy via criminal proceedings
It also said: “We note that criminal cases were allegedly filed against those involved in the 31 May 2022 Okada Manila incident.”
The Supreme Court further stated: “While the merits of these cases do not concern us, they highlight that the parties are not without recourse, and such recourse is beyond the issues before the court.”
The Supreme Court added there were “factual issues which would have to be settled before this court can properly resolve the pending motions” of the disputing parties.
As such, “the Court of Appeals is directed to receive evidence on” matters including: “TRLEI’s financial condition and the alleged dissipation of its assets,” as asserted by the Universal Entertainment side; “supposed non-payment of landlord, suppliers and contractors” by Mr Okada’s side; “TRLEI’s alleged intention to list” an entity “in the United States”; “TRLEI’s purported plan to transfer its casino business” to that entity; the “supposed waiver of TRLEI’s leasehold rights over the land on which Okada Manila is situated”; and “other acts claimed to be ultra vires or prejudicial to TRLEI”.
The court document referred to the entity to be listed as “Okada Manila International Inc” (OMI). According to a press release on December 8, from U.S.-based 26 Capital Acquisition Corp, due to be a partner with Universal Entertainment in a listing process, the name of the entity to be listed had been changed to “UE Resorts International, Inc.”
This was in order to “better reflect the corporation’s expansion plans in Asia and other countries around the world, including the U.S.”
Wednesday’s statement by the Philippine Supreme Court noted that Mr Okada’s side alleged “Universal Entertainment purportedly intends to list OMI as a public company in the United States through the use of a special purpose acquisition company.”
It added: “Kazuo [Okada] stresses that the transfer would cause TRLEI to lose 90 percent of its gross revenues and lead to its bankruptcy, rendering recovery of [his] investments highly doubtful, if not impossible.”
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