The Court of Appeals of the Philippines has dismissed fraud charges against Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Kazuo Okada (pictured) and an associate, Takahiro Usui, over claims of misappropriation of more than US$3 million from Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, operator of the Okada Manila casino resort.
The case dates to 2018, when the Philippine Department of Justice recommended the filing of charges against Mr Okada for three counts of swindling after he acquired “through mistake or fraud” US$3.15 million in salary and consultancy fees during his term as chief executive of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment.
Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment – which is controlled by Japan-listed Universal Entertainment Corp, a firm also founded by Mr Okada – accused Mr Okada of illegal disbursement of company funds amounting to US$3 million, without the approval of the board, reportedly for his consultancy work and for salaries.
The operator of Okada Manila previously said the payments were facilitated by its former chief operating officer and president Takahiro Usui, and were not authorised by the firm’s board as reportedly required by the company’s by-laws.
In a 24-page judgement dated December 9 but made public last week, the Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling by a regional trial court in Parañaque, a district of Metro Manila. In May 2019, the regional court had found merit in putting Mr Okada and Mr Usui to trial for three counts of alleged “estafa” – a form of fraud – and issued arrest warrants against the pair.
In overturning the earlier decision, the Court of Appeals said the regional court committed “grave abuse of discretion in issuing warrants of arrest” against Mr Okada and his associate “despite the absence of probable cause,” reported the Daily Tribune newspaper.
“There was no misappropriation or conversion by Mr Okada of the money received,” said the decision, quoted by the media outlet.
In 2017, Mr Okada was shunted from the board of Universal Entertainment and then removed from the chair of Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment. He was subsequently removed from Okada Holdings Ltd, a private company in Hong Kong which holds more than two-thirds of the stock of Universal Entertainment.
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