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Philippines denies bribery: Okada files restraining order against Wynn
Kazuo Ozada, the recently removed director of Wynn Resorts, has filed a restraining order against the gaming operator today (Macau time) to try to stop the redemption of his shares in the company.
Meanwhile the Philippines gaming regulator rejected accusations of bribery involving local hotel-casino Wynn Macau, which could lead to charges being pressed against Okada in the MSAR.
On Monday one of Okada’s companies, Universal Entertainment, said it would “take all legal actions necessary to protect its investment in Wynn”, calling the operator’s decision “outrageous”.
Wynn Resorts bought out its largest shareholder, asked him to quit the board and filed a lawsuit in Nevada State against Okada and two of his companies for breach of fiduciary duty and related offenses.
An internal probe found “more than three dozen instances over a three-year period in which Mr. Okada and his associates engaged in improper activities (…) in apparent violation of U.S. anti-corruption laws,” Wynn said.
But the Japanese tycoon is not going down quietly. According to Wall Street Journal, Okada would argue in his suit that he did not have “the opportunity to review” the investigation’s report.
The pachinko businessmen could also claim the share redemption was revenge for going public with his opposition to a HKD 1 million donation to the University of Macau Development Foundation.
And Okada has a record of going to court and winning. With him as chairman, Universal has prevailed in tax, patent and libel cases in Japan over the past six years.
“Okada and his associates will try every means to overrule the forced redemption” by Wynn, Victor Yip, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong told Bloomberg. “The legal dispute is not going to end here.”
UM distant from controversy
University of Macau’s Rector Wei Zhaoy was quoted yesterda by TDM as saying that the investigation of Wynn by US authority is the gaming operator’s internal problem. Although the incident was related to Wynn’s donation to the university, Zhao denied that it was related to the university itself, and stressed that the University of Macau Development Fund, to which the donation went, would operate as usual in accordance with current regulationsBigger charges
Wynn Resorts’ allegations against Okada included that he made cash payments to gambling regulators in the Philippines, where Universal has broken ground on a USD 2.3 billion hotel and casino resort as part of Manila’s Entertainment City project.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chief executive officer Cristino Naguiat, Jr. said the authority received no cash or in kind payments from Okada, according to an e-mailed statement from the gaming regulator.
The Universal chairman visited the gaming authority on Monday and told Naguiat that the USD 110,000 in payments referred to in the Wynn report as improper were for business associates’ accommodations.
“Based on records of Okada’s group, the USD 110,000 represented various accommodations granted to Okada’s business associates not only from the Philippines but from other countries as well from 2008 to 2011,” Naguiat said in the statement.
The case won’t affect Okada’s Manila investment “right now,” the regulator added. “We believe this issue is an intra-corporate battle between Mr. Kazuo Okada and Mr. Steve Wynn.”
But a source that had access to the Wynn report told Macau Daily Times that it also includes charges of corruption linked to land deals and a gaming license for Universal in the Philippines.
“The US 110,000 is pocket-money compared to the amounts and dealings which the investigations have uncovered to date but so far this is sufficient to raise charges and start proceedings,“ a legal expert told MDTimes.
The alleged charges may involve paying over the odds for a land deal, with hundreds of million US dollars finding its way to government officials and politicians in the Philippines.
“Wynn has been pulling out the big investigative guns and has found ammunition,” a source said.
As the legal dispute rages on, Wynn Resorts is consulting experts in order to increase security in his properties. According to sources, a company representative met yesterday in Macau with two formers officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Hong Kong police.
Japan’s pachinko industry, where Okada made his fortune, has an image problem due to alleged connections to organised crime, namely Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
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