DOJ summons Okada over $2B resort casino

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 01 2013 02:30 AM | Updated as of Oct 01 2013 05:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada was summoned to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to answer criminal charges connected to alleged anomalies in his firm's $2-billion resort casino at the Entertainment City in Parañaque.

In a subpoena issued last week, the investigating panel ordered the billionaire to attend the preliminary investigation on Oct. 17 and 18 at 10 a.m. at the DOJ.

The panel is comprised of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Deana Perez and Assistant State Prosecutors Arnold Magpantay and Caterina Isabel Caeg.

Okada was directed to answer charges of violations of the Philippine Anti-Dummy Law, Public Land Act, Foreign Investment Act and Article XII of the Constitution.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, was sent to Okada’s lawyers whom the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) tagged as dummies of the Japanese tycoon.

Okada was charged before the DOJ last July after a fact-finding team concluded after a seven-month probe that his Universal Entertainment Corp. used three local firms – Eagle I Landholdings Inc., Eagle II Holdco Inc. and Tiger Resort Inc. – to circumvent the 40-percent limit on foreign ownership on businesses.

Eight other Japanese nationals have also been summoned to the DOJ.

They are facing the same criminal charges: Tiger Resort chairman Hajime Tokuda; president Mitsuo Hida; and directors Ken Taura, Tetsutaro Shibata, Takeshi Nojima, Koki Seki, Masato Araki, and Manabu Kawasaki.

Summons were also sent to 17 Filipinos and 10 local and foreign companies for allegedly allowing themselves to be used as dummies of Universal.

Implicated in the alleged anomaly are Eagle I director Rodolfo Soriano Jr.; Eagle II executives Hector de Leon Jr., Ramon Songco, Llewellyn Llanillo, Rene Soriano, Andres Sta. Maria, Roberto San Juan, Manuel Camacho and Paulo Bombase;

Tiger Resort executives and officers Imelda Manguiat, Jose Ma. Hofileña, Carina Laforteza and Jan Abano; and Platinum Gaming and Entertainment Corp. officers Roberto Suson, Ma. Lourdes Go and Victor Emmanuel Caindic.

Three foreign affiliates of Universal – Molly Investment Cooperative in the Netherlands, Aruze USA Inc. in the US and Hong-Kong based firm Future Fortune Ltd. – were also implicated in the anomaly, along with local firms Lex Development Corp., Ultralex Holdings Corp. and Platinum Gaming and Entertainment Corp.

Soriano is the former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) consultant who had allegedly received a bribe in May 2010 from a Hong Kong affiliate of Universal for the Entertainment City project.

The fact-finding team failed to establish the bribery charge due to lack of cooperation of the Japanese witnesses. They then decided to conduct further investigation while looking for local witnesses.

Earlier, the SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan law office, whose lawyers were included in the charge sheet, denied the charges.

In a statement, Rafael Morales, the law firm’s managing partner, said: “We take exception, in the strongest possible terms, to the NBI investigating panel’s resolution recommending the inclusion of several lawyers of SyCiP Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan in the prosecution of Mr. Kazuo Okada in connection with his Philippine investments.

“SSHG and its lawyers have, at all times, acted in full compliance with all laws applicable to the transactions in which they were involved. Those transactions were legitimate and lawful and we are confident that a proper investigation will clear our lawyers of any wrongdoing.”