Philippine Court Clears Okada Manila Founder of Fraud

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A legal battle involving Kazuo Okada that has been brewing for years is now only going to gain strength.  The Court of Appeals of the Philippines has rescinded fraud allegations against the Japanese billionaire entrepreneur and Takahiro Usui, an associate, regarding claims of misappropriation of more than $3 million from Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI), the Okada Manila casinos resort operator.

Kazuo Cleared of Fraud in the Philippines

The case dates back to 2018, when the Philippine Department of Justice recommended that Okada be prosecuted for three counts of fraud. Okada had acquired $3.15 millions in consultancy and salary fees “through mistake or fraud” during his tenure as CEO at TRLEI, the firm stated at the time.

Okada Manila’s previous operator stated that the payments were facilitated and authorized by Takahiro, the former chief operating office and president of the firm. This is contrary to what the company’s bylaws require.

On December 9 of last year, the Court of Appeals reversed a prior ruling of a Paranaque Regional Trial Court, according to local media outlet the Daily Tribune newspaper. In May 2019, the court decided that the evidence against Okada and Usui was valid. It charged them each with three counts of fraud and issued warrants for their arrests. That led to Okada losing his position with the company.

Paranaque Regional Trial Court Oversteps its Authority

However, the Court of Appeals ruled against the earlier decision. It stated that the regional court committed “grave abuse of discretion in issuing warrants of arrest” against Okada and Usui with no probable cause.

In 2017, Okada, a member of Universal Entertainment’s board, was disqualified and then removed as chair of TRLEI. Okada Holdings Ltd. a Hong Kong private company which owns more than two-thirds of Universal Entertainment stock, also removed him.

As a result of the new court decision, Okada will likely fight his prior dismissals and could even claim financial damages.

While Okada may have found some relief with the Philippine court, he has a long way to go elsewhere. He is involved in another legal battle with Wynn Resorts, but is having money management issues. Bartlit Beck, a Chicago-based litigation company, wants a judge to stop Dentons global law firm from withdrawing its counsel for Okada as it seeks millions in legal fees.

Okada reportedly owes Beck over $63 million. This is a result of a legal dispute between his Universal Entertainment Corp. and Wynn Resorts. Beck initially sought $50 million from Okada in fees in the Wynn case, which saw the latter pay a $2.6-billion settlement.

Beck stated that it was unable to do much discovery on Okada’s assets in US courts, Hong Kong, and Japanese courts and that it could only collect $392,377 of outstanding fees. The discovery is necessary to determine how to target assets to cover the debt.

Dentons is accused of “further enabling [Okada’s] strategy of delay” by requesting the dismissal. A judge will determine Dentons’ request this week.

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