Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Cristino Naguiat, Jr. is taking a backseat on the ongoing bribery investigation involving Kazuo Okada’s Universal Entertainment Group and former officials of the state-owned agency. Earlier this week, the Pagcor head honcho said that the investigation was now in the hands of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
While new developments on this issue have been relatively subdued in the past few days, the investigation appears to be far from finished. For now, though, Naguiat Jr. is putting the ball in the courts of the NBI and the DOJ, and to be the lead agencies in handling what has become a messy issue for Pagcor.
Naguiat also said that Universal Entertainment has already sent a (love) letter, explaining that the company had nothing to do with the alleged bribery, although they did admit that an illegal disbursement, reported to be around $30 million, was made to former Pagcor consultant Rodolfo Soriano without the board’s knowledge and approval.
The Reuters report cited Universal’s US subsidiary Aruze USA as having transferred a total of $40 million to the Hong Kong-based company Future Fortune. From there, Future Fortune transferred $5 million to People’s Technology, a company owned by Soriano, and $35 million to Subic Leisure and Management, a British Virgin Islands-registered company whose ownership remains in question. Making things a little more confusing, a $10m payment was reportedly returned to Future Fortune on the same day it was transferred to Subic Leisure Management.
The bombshell allegations by Reuters was made with anger by Okada and Universal, who then proceeded to file a civil lawsuit against the news agency for what they deemed as “biased and unfair reporting”.
While all of that was going on, the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives have each launched their own investigations on the matter with the intention of getting to the bottom of things before the issue gets even messier.
For their part, the current Pagcor administration has taken a “well-be-here-when-you-call-us” approach to the issue, opting to let the authorities handle their business while also lending their support whenever deemed necessary. Naguiat also cautioned for those calling the revocation of Okada’s license to hold on to their horses until a final determination is made by the NBI and the DOJ. Should the company be found guilty of bribing their way to a casino license, said license shall be revoked and the company will not be allowed to operate a casino in the country.
But Naguiat also clarified that Pagcor’s jurisdiction is in the operation of casinos, not hotels, which could mean that Universal’s planned hotel operations could still continue.