Posted on: October 28, 2022, 09:58h.
Last updated on: October 28, 2022, 10:55h.
Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada has entered a not guilty plea for the single “grave coercion” charge brought against him by the Philippines Department of Justice.
Okada’s spokesperson emailed Casino.org Friday morning, revealing the gaming tycoon’s intent to face the charge in court.
Kazuo Okada and his group reiterate that they will face the allegation in a just and very honest way and fight until full justice is obtained,” wrote Okada’s attorney and official spokesperson, Rico Quicho.
Okada and three of his associates — Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, Dindo Espeleta, and attorney Florencio Herrera III — each entered not guilty pleas before the Metropolitan Trial Court in Paranaque City during their October 28 arraignments.
Okada made his early fortune by founding Universal Entertainment Corporation in 1969 and manufacturing the pachinko machines that filled pachinko parlors across Japan for decades. Okada became a billionaire by forming a friendship with Steve Wynn and being an early investor in Wynn Resorts.
Okada helped Wynn finance Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Macau with a $455 million investment in exchange for 20% of Wynn Resorts.
That relationship ended on bad terms after Okada sought to build his own casino resort in the Philippines. Facing allegations of bribing Filipino officials, the Wynn board in 2012 forced Okada to redeem his shares for $2.77 billion and ousted him as a non-executive director.
Okada went on to build Okada Manila at a cost of $2.4 billion. The destination opened in late 2016. He formed Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI) to manage the integrated casino resort.
Okada faced new allegations of wrongdoing in 2017 by TRLEI and his own children, who became the management firm’s largest shareholders and sat on the company’s board. Okada’s roles as a board member and chair were revoked after the firm concluded that he swindled millions of dollars for his personal use.
Okada has continually denied poaching company funds and has been trying to regain control of TRLEI and Okada Manila for the past five years.
The Philippines Supreme Court earlier this year ordered TRLEI to restore its boardroom to its 2017 arrangement as Okada’s legal case plays out. But Okada and his associates took the high court order as validation to resume management control of Okada Manila.
The Okada group stormed the TRLEI corporate offices at Okada Manila on May 31 and forcibly assumed control of the casino complex. Certain TRLEI executives and managers were forced from their offices and escorted off of the premises.
The Philippines DOJ and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation subsequently determined that TRLEI — not the Okada-led group — should continue managing the resort amid the ongoing internal dispute. Okada Manila was returned to TRLEI on September 4.
In his statement today, Okada believes he will one day regain control of the casino that bears his name.
“The group remains confident that these grave coercion cases will be dismissed for the utter failure of the prosecution to prove its charges with the quantum of evidence required in criminal cases, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Okada’s attorney-spokesperson Quicho concluded.