The Philippines’ Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed estafa charges against billionaire gaming mogul Kazuo Okada and his right-hand man, Takahiro Usui, over claims they misappropriated funds from Okada Manila operator Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI).
The charges date back to 2018, when TRLEI filed a claim alleging that Okada, in conspiracy with Usui, received $3,158,835 in salaries and consultancy fees without any authority or approval from the company’s Board. Okada, who was TRLEI Chairman and CEO, and Usui, who was COO, had been expelled from the company over the matter in 2017.
An indictment for three counts of estafa was subsequently filed by the Philippines Department of Justice in January 2019 and a request from the duo to quash arrest warrants against them, issued by the Parañaque City Regional Trial Court (RTC), was rejected in May of the same year.
However, in a ruling dated 9 December 2021, the CA recalled and quashed the warrants and granted a petition filed by Okada in 2019 challenging the original court’s ruling.
According to a report by the Manila Bulletin, the CA’s 24-page ruling found the RTC had abused its discretion in issuing the arrest warrants.
“In this case, apart from the procedural defect of failing to issue an order explaining his finding of probable cause, the lower court likewise gravely abused its discretion in issuing the warrant of arrest when the records suggest that there is no probable cause to indict [Kazuo Okada] and Usui of the crime charged against them,” the CA said.
It also concurred with Okada’s argument that he could not have committed estafa because he was in full control of TRLEI at the time and had the power to authorize the payment of compensation to directors.
“To recall, the subject amount in this case was not entrusted to [Okada] for his safekeeping or administration. Rather, it was paid to him by the corporation in consideration of the services that he rendered as a consultant of TRLEI and as its former CEO. As such, [Okada] became the owner of the subject amount.
“All told, the facts in this case show the absence or probable cause against [Okada], seeing as the elements for estafa … are clearly wanting.
“In light of this finding, the allegation that Usui conspired with petitioner in swindling money to the prejudice of the corporation likewise fails.”
Aside from departing TRLEI, Usui stepped down from his role as Chairman and CEO of Aruze Gaming in June 2019 after the charges were filed against him.