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Revenge of the Japanese Casino Mogul

Monday June 6, 2022. 07:29 AM , from Akihabara News
Akihabara News (Tokyo) — The rollercoaster saga of Japanese casino mogul Kazuo Okada has taken another bizarre and unlikely turn as the controversial billionaire seizes by force one of the largest casino resorts in the Philippines.

Okada’s career is a storied one. The soon-to-be 80-year-old mogul originally built his wealth as a producer of pachinko machines with his company Universal Entertainment Corporation. He partnered at the beginning of this century with Steve Wynn to enter the casino business, and was instrumental in establishing Wynn Resorts. Eventually, Okada’s relationship with Wynn soured and the Japanese entrepreneur made a risky move to build his own independent casino resort, Okada Manila, in the Philippine capital.

But Okada’s fortunes took a sharp turn for the worse in early 2017 when he was accused of embezzlement and misuse of company funds for personal benefit. In a true melodrama, he lost control of Universal Entertainment when his ex-wife and children voted him out.

In the following years, Okada kept up the fight. Dodging arrest warrants and losing multiple court cases in Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere, his struggle looked increasingly quixotic.

That is, until April 27, when the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a shocking order that Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI), the management company for the Okada Manila casino resort, must restore the company leadership to the state that it was in before Okada had been removed.

This appeared to contradict a 2020 verdict by the Japanese Supreme Court which had upheld Okada’s removal from the leadership of the parent company, Universal Entertainment, which is the 99.9% owner of TRLEI.

On May 31, about fifty security guards and police led by former TRLEI board member Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco, acting on behalf of Okada, arrived at the casino resort and physically removed the management loyal to the current leadership of Universal Entertainment.

Lawyer Estrella Elamparo, who was on the scene, told the local media that senior executive Hajime Tokuda was dragged out of room by “goons” and effectively kidnapped before their eyes. He was eventually deposited at his home, traumatized by the experience.

Back in Tokyo, Universal Entertainment denounced what it called “serious criminal offenses,” and it vowed to take legal action.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the powerful regulator of the country’s gambling industry, waited a few days and then fully backed the Okada group’s physical takeover of the premises, downplaying allegations of physical violence.

However, video taken at the time emerged that confirmed Tokuda was indeed roughly handled and dragged out of the facility, contradicting the claims of both the Okada partisans and the government regulator.

Most recently, the Tokyo-based leadership of Universal Entertainment accused PAGCOR of “manifest bias” and “an act of graft and corruption”–very strong words indeed for a major corporation to use against a government organization.

The current situation is a confused one. Allies of Kazuo Okada now have physical control of TRLEI and its Okada Manila casino resort, with the apparent backing of the Philippine authorities. Meanwhile, the parent company in Tokyo, the 99.9% owner of TRLEI, is fiercely and loudly denouncing what it calls the violence and corruption of the takeover, trying to regain control of the property which it ostensibly owns.

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