Japan’s Universal Entertainment Corp (UEC), the parent company of Okada Manila operator Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), has accused Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR of an “act of graft and corruption” for taking the side of gaming magnate Kazuo Okada in a corporate dispute over control of the integrated resort in Manila’s entertainment city.
It has also released new video footage which appears to show TRLEI staff being forcibly removed during a takeover of Okada Manila by representatives of Kazuo Okada last Tuesday – footage it says contradicts claims made by PAGCOR President Alfredo Lim that the takeover was “smooth”.
New video which appears to show Mr Hajime Tokuda, a director of Universal Entertainment, at Okada Manila crying out, “itai, itai, itai” (痛い痛い痛い, Japanese for “it hurts, it hurts, it hurts”) and “pain, pain, pain” in English.
As reported by Inside Asian Gaming, the forced takeover – which reportedly saw the Kazuo Okada group accompanied by around 50 private guards, police officers of Paranaque City Police and a Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Paranaque City – came after the Supreme Court of the Philippines recently issued a Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO) to TRLEI ordering restoration of the composition of the board of directors of TRLEI to its 2017 line-up, before the dispute that saw Kazuo Okada removed from the UEC board.
PAGCOR has since confirmed it was also present at the time, having assigned a monitoring team to witness the incident “with the purpose of protecting the interests of PAGCOR and the Government, and to ensure that operations are not disrupted and the welfare of the playing patrons is ensured.”
The regulator added that it was “duty bound to observe due process and comply with the issuances and directives of the Supreme Court,” which UEC said has included PAGCOR agreeing to the Kazuo Okada group’s request to deny UEC access to revenues generated by TRLEI through Okada Manila and to recognize group member Dindo A Espeleta as TRLEI’s new representative.
However, in a statement sent to IAG on Friday evening, UEC said it vehemently denounces the decision of PAGCOR to “blatantly take the side of the usurper Kazuo Okada in the ongoing intra-corporate dispute.”
“On 22 May 2022, PAGCOR and the Kazuo Group held a meeting, electing Espeleta as TRLEI’s supposed representative to PAGCOR,” UEC said. “[PAGCOR’s] bias towards the Kazuo Group manifested heavily during the flagrantly violent takeover of Okada Manila by the Kazuo Group.
“PAGCOR’s President and Chief Operating Officer Mr Alfredo Lim was quoted as saying that the takeover was peaceful and orderly — this despite the viral videos showing the complete opposite.
“Furthermore, the Kazuo Group claimed that PAGCOR recognizes his sham board of directors.
“Based on its mandate, PAGCOR, a government-owned or controlled corporation (GOCC), is only mandated by Presidential Decree No. 1869 to ‘regulate, operate, authorize and license games of chance, games of cards and games of numbers, particularly casino gaming in the Philippines.’ It is not authorized by law to adjudicate intra-corporate disputes.
“Moreover, PAGCOR is not permitted to exercise its regulatory powers by favoring a party in an intra-corporate dispute, a matter well within the jurisdiction of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Thus, it is a blatant disregard of the parties’ legal rights that PAGCOR has shed its neutrality in this intra-corporate dispute by openly recognizing the sham board without any legal and factual basis.”
UEC said this “manifest bias is an act of graft and corruption under Republic Act [No.] 3019,” and pointed to Section 3 of the Act, which states, “The following shall constitute corrupt practices of any public officer and are hereby declared to be unlawful … Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”
UEC also reiterated its stance that only the shareholders of its Hong Kong-registered subsidiary Tiger Resort Asia Ltd (TRAL) – which owns 99.9% of TRLEI – are entitled to elect TRLEI’s Board of Directors, and that even if the SQAO is enforced, the newly-installed Board is not the same Board that existed in 2017.
TRLEI counsel Atty. Estrella Elamparo had alluded to this on Wednesday, the day following the physical takeover, when she noted that in 2017 Kazuo Okada owned only one share in TRLEI, a company with some 5 billion ordinary shares on issue, and even that single share was removed from him later that year.
“PAGCOR is well aware of these facts and yet it has acted with obvious bias in favor of the Kazuo Group,” UEC said in the Friday evening statement.
“We urge PAGCOR to adopt a neutral stance in the intra-corporate dispute and be more mindful of its mandate as a GOCC.
“The public can rest assured that UEC, TRAL and the legitimate Board members of TRLEI will not relent in exhausting all legal remedies to right the wrong that has recently been committed against the company and protect the interests of all stakeholders.”