Japanese gaming mogul Kazuo Okada will be permitted to retain his position as “stockholder, director, chairman and CEO” of Okada Manila, pending further legal rulings, but his powers will end there following last week’s ruling by gaming regulator PAGCOR that he cease and desist from efforts to control the Philippines integrated resort.
Mr Okada has also been accused of locking the property down in order to destroy documents during Friday’s enforcement action, which saw representatives of the Tiger Resort Asia Ltd (TRAL)-backed board reclaim control in the wake of PAGCOR’s order.
As reported by Inside Asian Gaming, a group of around 50 people representing the TRAL-backed board, all wearing red caps and white shirts, stormed Okada Manila on Friday accompanied by members of the Philippine National Police and PAGCOR representatives.
They were acting on a ruling by the regulator dated 2 September 2022, since obtained by IAG, which confirmed it would continue to recognise Mr Okada’s return to the TRLEI board but not that of his representatives, including Tonyboy Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta. The ruling also demanded the group “cease and desist from discharging their functions in connection with Okada Manila’s casino operations and from disbursing funds in the Okada Manila cage and to vacate the gaming premises of Okada Manila’s casino and its offices.”
The Kazuo Okada group had forcibly taken control of Okada Manila in late May, in response to a Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO) issued by the Supreme Court which demanded the board of TRLEI be restored to its composition in 2017, before the dispute between Universal and Mr Okada that led to him being frozen out.
In a Sunday press release, UEC accused Mr Okada’s representatives of locking the property down and destroying documents during Friday’s reclamation actions.
“Despite the illegally-appointed board’s last-minute efforts to sabotage the transition by disabling most of the property’s elevators for several hours, including those for the customers, the management and operations of Okada Manila were turned over to the TRAL-backed board led by TRLEI President Byron Yip and are fully under their control since Friday,” UEC said.
“There is also CCTV video footage of the Kazuo group shredding documents in hotel room 866, which was being used as an executive office, and employee Gilbert Giazon removing boxes of documents from the property.”
IAG has obtained last week’s ruling by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which led to the return of power to UEC and TRAL. Having reviewed the original SQAO alongside claims to the contrary by TRAL, the DOJ stated in a decision dated 1 September 2022, “We believe that the SQAO of the Supreme Court mandated only the return of Mr Okada as stockholder, director, chairman and CEO of TRLEI. It did not empower him to reconvene or form a new board of directors.
“Based on the record, the constitution/election of [Mr Okada’s chosen board] exceeds and violates the SQAO issued by the Supreme Court … There is nothing therein that restored him as TRAL’s sole representative in TRLEI. Thus, his actions [in doing so] are unauthorized and invalid.”
The DOJ also made it clear that PAGCOR held the authority to implement and action measures related to the control of Okada Manila.
While PAGCOR has reinstated control of Okada Manila to UEC and TRAL, it has also demanded that Mr Okada be provided equal access to the premises and the ability to inspect TRLEI’s corporate records, pending any legal rulings to the contrary.
In response, TRAL Director Kenshi Asano said Sunday the company would recognize Mr Okada’s board membership for now, but added, “We believe that the order from the PAGCOR affirms our position in the intra-corporate dispute in Okada Manila. It is consistent with both the letter and spirit of the SQAO of the Supreme Court.
“We are hopeful that both the High Tribunal and the Court of Appeals will agree and this issue can be put to rest very soon.
“While we have successfully retaken control over the management and premises of Okada Manila, we will remain focused on resolving this matter with finality. A favorable outcome will help the Philippines regain the trust of international investors.”
In a response released overnight, the Kazuo Okada team accused PAGCOR of defying the Supreme Court’s SQAO and of “expeditiously” coming up with a cease and desist order that “is merely based on the opinion of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and not from a proper Court of Law.
“Chairman Kazuo Okada and his group vowed to sustain positive gains of Okada Manila following the reinstatement and will not accept an opinion that is not supported and promulgated by the proper courts,” it said.
“Chairman Kazuo stresses that legal actions will be initiated and he has complete trust in the justice system of the Philippines.”