FBI in Manila investigating Universal bribery allegations; PAGCOR remit up 18%

TAGs: entertainment city, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kazuo Okada, PAGCOR, Philippines, Universal Entertainment

philippines-fbi-bribery-allegationsThe US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has sent agents to the Philippines to investigate allegations of bribery involving Japanese gaming firm Universal Entertainment and former execs of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). On Saturday, Reuters – which originally reported the bribery allegations in November – reported that agents from the FBI’s Las Vegas office had been in Manila for a week, working with the local National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which has been tasked with its own investigation of the brouhaha. A source said the NBI is set to deliver an interim report on its work next week, but is also expected to ask for more time in which to complete its investigation.

In case you’re just joining us, the allegations surround $40m that Universal Entertainment transferred to Rodolfo Soriano, an associate of former PAGCOR boss Ephraim Genuino. The funds were allegedly intended to ensure Universal’s Philippine subsidiary Tiger Resorts would receive concessions regarding foreign ownership of Philippines-based businesses and land-use issues connected with Tiger’s resort-casino project in the Entertainment City complex being built on Manila Bay.

The FBI’s interest stems from the fact that the payments were made via Aruze USA, a US-based Universal subsidiary set up to handle Universal boss Kazuo Okada’s sizable holdings in Wynn Resorts. Until last February, Okada was Wynn Resorts’ single largest shareholder, but Okada and Wynn boss Steve Wynn reportedly fell out over Okada’s desire to build his Manila casino. In addition to the two countries’ law enforcement agencies, the Nevada Gaming Control Board and both houses of the Philippines congress are also looking into the matter. Universal itself is conducting its own investigation, and has filed suit against three former employees it accuses of making unauthorized money transfers, and also against Reuters for “biased and unfair reporting.”

On a more positive note, PAGCOR announced it has remitted P12.18b (US $446.2m) to the Bureau of Treasury over the first 11 months of 2012, an 18% improvement over the same period in 2011. By law, PAGCOR is required to pay 5% of its net earnings in franchise tax to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, while half the remaining sum goes to the treasury. The rest is split between various other government agencies. The Philippine Star quoted current PAGCOR chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. saying earnings had risen 16% to P31.16b ($767.3m) over the first three quarters of 2012. The bulk of this (P21.04b) comes from 13 Casino Filipino establishments and four licensed casinos. Of this P21b, PAGCOR’s casinos accounted for P14.92b, while the satellites, VIP clubs and arcades added P6.12b.


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of