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Kazuo Okada acquitted of fraud allegations

The Philippine Court of Appeals dismissed fraud charges against Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Kazuo Okada and an associate, Takahiro Usui, alleging they misappropriated more than US$3 million from Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc, the operator of the Okada Manila casino resort.

The case dates all the way back to 2018, when the Philippine Department of Justice recommended charging Mr Okada with three counts of swindling after he amassed US$3.15 million in salary and consulting fees "through mistake or fraud" during his tenure as chief executive of Tiger Resort, Leisure, and Entertainment.

Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment – which is managed by Japan's publicly traded Universal Entertainment Corp, another business created by Mr Okada – accused Mr Okada of illegally disbursing US$3 million in company money without the board's agreement, apparently for consulting work and salary.

The operator of Okada Manila previously stated that the payments were handled by Takahiro Usui, the firm's former chief operating officer and president, and were not authorized by the board of directors, as required by the company's bylaws.

The Court of Appeals overruled an earlier finding by a regional trial court in Paraaque, a district of Metro Manila, in a 24-page decision dated December 9 but made public this week. Mr Okada and Mr Usui were charged in May 2019 with three counts of suspected "estafa" – a type of fraud – and issued arrest orders for the two.

The Court of Appeals reversed the previous ruling, finding that the regional court committed a grave abuse of discretion in issuing warrants of arrest" against Mr Okada and his associate "despite the absence of probable cause," according to the Daily Tribune newspaper.

"There was no misappropriation or conversion by Mr Okada of the money received," the verdict stated, as reported by the media site.

Mr Okada was demoted from Universal Entertainment's board of directors in 2017 and then ousted as chairman of Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment. He was then removed from Okada Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-based private firm that owns more than two-thirds of Universal Entertainment's stock.



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