Another Japanese court has rejected billionaire Kazuo Okada’s defamation suit against news agency Reuters over allegations of casino bribery in the Philippines.
In late 2012, Reuters reported on millions of dollars in questionable payments made by a Philippine-based affiliate of Okada’s pachinko and slot machine firm Universal Entertainment Corp to an associate of Efraim Genuino, the former head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), who is currently facing graft charges.
The payments appeared to have been made to secure concessions that benefited Universal’s in-development resort casino project in Manila’s Entertainment City gaming zone. That property, now known as Okada Manila, is scheduled to open its first phase at the end of December.
In December 2012, Universal sued Reuters’ Japanese unit and three of its journalists for defamation, accusing the agency of “biased and unfair reporting” and seeking ¥200m in damages. In November 2015, the Tokyo District Court dismissed Universal’s lawsuit, saying Universal had failed to identify any falsehoods contained in Reuters’ reporting, and thus failed to prove any illegality.
On Thursday, the Tokyo High Court upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying Universal’s claims were “groundless.” The Court said Reuters hadn’t used language that implied bribery, nor had the articles claimed the payments were illegal. The Court also found that Reuters’ repetition of key facts throughout the articles was necessary to inform readers.
Reuters issued a statement expressing its pleasure that the Court had “affirmed the accuracy and fairness of Reuters’ reporting.” Neither Universal nor Okada (pictured) have yet to publicly comment on this latest setback.
A few months after Reuters’ original report, Universal released the results of an internal investigation that concluded a $25m payment to a British Virgin Islands consulting firm to secure Philippine land rights had been “unnecessary.” Universal launched legal proceedings against former employees it claimed had approved the payments without corporate authorization, while the employees launched countersuits accusing Okada of ordering the payments.