Authorities in the Philippines have reportedly recommended terminating the bribery investigation into Kazuo Okada‘s Universal Entertainment. On Monday, Universal released a statement saying the Prosecutor General of the Philippines has asked the Secretary of Justice to terminate the investigation into “the groundless suspicion that our group may have offered bribes to officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).”
In case you’ve been in a coma for the past two years, a Universal subsidiary is building a $2b resort casino in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone. In 2012, reports surfaced that Universal had funneled millions of dollars to an associate of then-PAGCOR chairman Efraim Genuino several years prior, allegedly to obtain land-concessions related to the development of its Manila casino. The ensuing brouhaha brought in local law enforcement and even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Universal now claims that, following a year-long investigation, a Fact Finding Panel consisting of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Prosecution Service stated in its final report dated Sept. 24 that “there is insufficient evidence” to support the bribery allegations. Universal says this stance was officially confirmed on Dec. 10 at a meeting of the Games and Amusement Committee of the House of Representatives, where an NBI official stated as much in his response to a question from a representative regarding the investigation.
Universal also claims that a decision was made on Dec. 16 not to institute prosecution against Okada based on a complaint filed by “someone” with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office over alleged bribery of foreign officials in connection with the Philippines affair.
Universal goes on to express its disappointment with another Dec. 16 decision by Tokyo prosecutors not to proceed with defamation charges Universal had sought against Wynn Resorts boss Steve Wynn and media man Shunsuke Yamaoka, the representative director of Access Journal. Here too, insufficient evidence is cited for the lack of willingness to proceed with charges.
Okada was a former member of Wynn’s board of directors and its single largest shareholder. In February 2012, Wynn forcibly redeemed Okada’s $2.7b worth of Wynn shares at a 32% discount, claiming that Okada had lavished illegal perks on Pagcor execs to obtain favors related to his Manila project. Wynn’s actions prompted a flurry of lawsuits in both Asia and America, many of which are still pending.
Universal concludes by saying it is continuing its internal investigation into how a former employee was allowed to authorize the multi-million dollar payments that are at the heart of the bribery affair. Universal has filed a civil case against the former employee in Tokyo District court.