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Philippines – Arrest warrant issued for Kazuo Okada – again

By - 12 July 2023

A court in Philippines has issued arrest warrants for Kazuo Okada and a number of industry associates who stand accused of siphoning money from Okada Manila during a takeover of the casino resort in 2022.

The Paranaque Regional Trial Court Branch ordered the warrants for qualified theft against Kazuo Okada, Antonio O. Cojuangco, Dindo Espeleta, and 10 others. Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) accuse Okada and others of qualified theft, alleging PHP 500 million was stolen from the casino cage.

Tiger Resorts removed Mr. Okada as Chairman of Okada Mania in June 2017. He was accused, along with a fellow director of ‘a serious violation of governance’ concerning the transfer of around US$17.3m from the company’s accounts in March 2015. In January 2019, the Paranaque court ordered the arrest of Mr. Okada, over three counts of estafa stemming from a complaint filed by Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Incorporated (TRLEI). The order came almost a month after the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to indict Okada for estafa for allegedly embezzling over US$3.1m in company funds.

On May 18, 2022, the Philippines Supreme Court order Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment to reinstate its former chariman and CEO. However, it became clear the Tiger Resorts was never going to abide by the order willingly and was confident it would successfully beat the ruling. Events escalated on May 31, 2022 as a group of 50 people representing the Japanese billionaire entered the Entertainment City resort to enforce a Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Supreme Court with the help of private security guards and local police.

The order stated that the board be reinstated as it was in 2017 and that Okada be restored as chairman and CEO. He had been removed from that position after being accused of embezzling from the company.

In June 2022, the newly ousted Tiger Resorts board of Okada Manila announced it was suing Kazuo Okada and his partners, accusing them of coercion and other misconduct in what it said was a “violent and illegal” seizure of the gambling resort.

In October 2022, Kazuo Okada was arrested by Philippines authorities at Manila airport when landing on a flight from Japan. The Metropolitan Trial Court of Paranaque Branch 90 and 91 issued warrants of arrest against Okada for grave coercion charges pertaining to the hostile takeover in Okada Manila in May 2022. The 80-year-old was able to post bail on the same day.

This latest arrest warrant from the Paranaque Regional Trial Court Branch follows PAGCOR’s release of a cease-and-desist order for Okada Manila’s current management (Okada and co), after it finalised a directive for Okada’s TRLEI Board members to be discharged from their functions as casino operators.

Okada has sought to suspend the trial proceedings and dismiss this latest case, but the Paranaque court has denied these motions and explained that “there is probable cause for the issuance of warrant of arrest against all the accused… The counter-allegations of the accused, being evidentiary in nature, are best threshed-out in a full-blown trial.”

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