Japanese Gambling Tycoon Bribed Filipinos: US Suit

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Feb/21/2012

(AFP) - WASHINGTON — Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada was accused Tuesday in a US lawsuit of paying off Philippine regulators and cheating his powerful Las Vegas partner.

Wynn Resorts said Okada, Japan's pachinko king and a director of Wynn, went behind the company's back to develop business for his own Universal Entertainment group in the Philippines and broke US laws on foreign bribery, the lawsuit alleges.

Wynn said Okada spent more than $110,000 to curry favor with two Philippines officials in apparent violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, jeopardizing Wynn's own reputation in the process.

"Mr. Okada, his associates and companies appear to have engaged in a longstanding practice of making payments and gifts to his two chief gaming regulators at the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), who directly oversee and regulate Mr. Okada's provisional licensing agreement to operate in that company," the lawsuit said.

The suit, filed Tuesday in Las Vegas district court, said that Okada had sought a gaming license in the Philippines and made the payments despite Wynn's telling him not to do so.

It named former Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino and current Chairman Cristino Naguiat, and their families, as the recipients of the payoffs, which dated to 2008.

Okada told a Wynn investigator that he had paid for Genuino's trip to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wynn said.

"Okada's conduct poses a direct assault upon, and a threat to, Wynn Resorts' reputation for probity, which is central to maintaining its stature in the gaming industry as well as its current and future licensing."

It was the latest step in the acrimonious fight between US casino magnate Steve Wynn and his longtime partner Okada, known as king of Japan's pachinko industry -- a hugely popular gambling business built around a pinball-like arcade game.

On Sunday Wynn's board voted to force out Okada, who controls a 20 percent stake in the company, which owns casinos in Las Vegas and Macau.

The board also moved to redeem Okada's 24 million shares, held through Aruze USA Inc, a Universal subsidiary.

The lawsuit followed a lengthy internal investigation by Wynn, which hired former US Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Freeh to conduct the probe.

Wynn said the probe found that Okada had used Wynn's name to advance his own interests in the Philippines.

It also said the Okada, when asked about his actions by the Wynn board, insisted that it was "customary" to give gifts to officials in Asia, via intermediaries.

In a statement Sunday Universal branded the board's action "outrageous," saying the investigation had been "rushed."

"We have not even been provided with the opportunity to review the Freeh Report," it said.

"Universal Entertainment will take all legal actions necessary to protect its investment and prevent a forced redemption of its shares."

Universal, through Aruze USA, was one of four winners of provisional gaming licenses awarded by the Philippine government in 2008.

It broke ground for its Manila Bay Resorts casino on January 26, promising ultimately more than 2,000 guest rooms in three hotels, with the planned opening in the first half of 2014.

The Wynn lawsuit accused Okada of undermining its own business in Macau by seeking to attract Chinese high-rollers to the Philippines casino.

Wynn said it will seek an unspecified amount of damages in a trial.

- Paul Handley Reporting

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