Long-running dispute

Okada Manila’s deposed board sues gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada for coercion and misconduct in resort takeover

Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada.
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The ousted board of Okada Manila -the Philippines' biggest casino- announced on Monday it is suing Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada and his partners, according to Business Inquirer. The businessman is being accused of coercion and other misconduct in what is said to have been a "violent and illegal" seizure of the resort last week.

In a long-running dispute over control of Tiger Resorts, Leisure & Entertainment -owned by Japan-based Universal Entertainment Inc-, Kazuo Okada and representatives took physical control of the $3.3 billion casino on May 31.

The move came after the Philippines' Supreme Court in April issued a 'status quo ante order' reinstating Okada, who had been ousted in 2017, as CEO of the casino. That development followed a decision by the country's Court of Appeals in January to dismiss an embezzlement charge against Okada and an associate.

The deposed board of Tiger Resorts appealed the Supreme Court's decision in April and its legal counsel said on Monday that there was nothing in the court's decision that authorized Okada's camp to seize physical control or to create a new board. It is also seeking clarification from the Supreme Court about its order.

Okada's group used "brute force and intimidation" in taking over the property on May 31, Michiaki Satate, co-vice chairman of the ousted Tiger Resort board, said in a news conference, as reported by Reuters.

"At this moment, it is an illegitimate board and set of officers who are running the business," Satate said, adding that the casino operator's parent company would not honor any business dealings conducted by the new board.

Universal, which has seen its shares slide 10% since the takeover, has also called the seizure of the casino an "illegal occupation," according to the cited source.

The lawsuit names as defendants Okada, who was not physically present during the takeover, as well his partners Antonio Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta and the private security guard company they employed.

They are accused of forcibly removing Universal director Hajime Tokuda from the casino premises and taking him to an area near his home in what the ousted board has called a kidnapping. They are also accused of harming other company officers in grievances that range from "grave coercion" and "unjust vexation". Vincent Lim, a spokesman for Okada Manila's current management has denied any "violent incident" occurred during the takeover. 

Officials from the Philippine gaming regulator, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR), were present at the takeover to monitor the event. PAGCOR said, however, that it wanted to emphasize its neutrality in the dispute as the matter is still before the court.

Okada was also ousted from Universal’s board in 2017, with directors accusing him of misappropriating $20 million in funds, which he denied.

The 44-hectare (108 acres) Okada Manila, located beside the Manila Bay, features 993 suites and villas, 500 table games, and 3,000 electronic gaming machines. It is the biggest of four multi-billion dollar casino resorts operating in the country, which has one of Asia's most freewheeling gaming industries.