The Philippines Court of Appeals has quashed fraud charges against the Japanese gaming billionaire Kazuo Okada. In the same breath, it overturned a lower court ruling that found he should stand trial for allegedly misappropriating more than US$3 million from his former company, Tiger Resorts, operator of the Okada Manila integrated resort.
The order was given on December 9, but has only now come to light via a report by The Manilla Bulletin. The court found that Okada, 79, had not misappropriated the money in question. It was paid to him by Tiger Resorts “in consideration for services rendered as consultant and CEO.”
In his ruling, Associate Justice Alfredo D. Ampuan wrote that the lower court had committed an “abuse of discretion” when it issued arrest warrants for Okada and his right-hand man, Takahiro Usui, in March 2018.
“There was lack of probable cause to issue warrants of arrest because not all the elements of the crime of estafa [fraud] was proved,” Ampuan wrote.
Those warrants came after Okada was ousted by the company he founded five decades ago, Tiger parent Universal Entertainment. It happened in what he has described as a boardroom coup orchestrated by members of his own family.
Okada holds a 46.38 percent stake in Okada Holdings, which controls Universal. His son, Tomohiro, holds 43.48 percent, and his daughter, Hiromi, 9.78 percent. This meant that a pact between the two siblings was enough to topple their father.
The board accused Okada of three instances of fraud related to the misappropriation of some US$17.26 million of Universal Entertainment funds. It declared him “unfit” to represent a public company and voted him out, after his estranged wife Takako Okada and his children moved against him.
Okada said the money was a director’s loan, to be used for development of the Okada Manila, which he intended to repay.
Subsequent legal efforts by Okada to regain control of the company have failed in the Tokyo courts.
Battle with Wynn
In Japan, Okada is dubbed “the Pachinko King” after the popular slot-pinball hybrid machines that made his fortune.
He was an early investor in Steve Wynn’s Wynn Resorts and sat on the board until 2012. But the two men fell out after Wynn accused Okada of bribing a Philippine official to land a license for what would become the Okada Manila.
Wynn Resorts forcibly redeemed the shares Okada owned through Universal, then worth US$2.77 billion, at a 30 percent discount, and kicked him off the board.
In 2018, Wynn Resorts agreed to pay Universal US$2.6 billion to settle resulting litigation.
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