Okada arrested over grave coercion charges, says UEC

Universal Entertainment Corp’s founder Kazuo Okada attends a news conference at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2017. — REUTERS

PHILIPPINE POLICE on Monday arrested Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada over the grave coercion charges filed by officials of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI) related to the “forceful takeover” of a casino-resort in Manila, according to Universal Entertainment Corp. (UEC).

UEC, Okada Manila’s parent company, said in a statement members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Aviation Security Group had arrested the businessman after he arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 from Haneda, Japan.

The Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 91 issued warrants of arrest against Mr. Okada on Oct. 11, and set the pre-trial hearing for his coercion case on Oct. 28, UEC said.

“We will continue to work with law enforcement units to bring Kazuo Okada to justice, as we have done in the past in other jurisdictions,” Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. Director Kenshi Asano said in the same statement.

Tiger Resort Asia is the parent company of TRLEI, which operates Okada Manila. Both are units of UEC.

In a separate statement, Mr. Okada said he returned to the Philippines to face the charges against him and show he was “not afraid.”

“I am confident that the legal process within the Philippine court system will vindicate us in all the cases filed against me and my business associates,” he said, adding he would post bail.

It was not immediately clear if Mr. Okada had posted bail as of press time.

TRLEI legal counsel Estrella C. Elamparo earlier filed criminal complaints against Mr. Okada and his associates Antonio O. Cojuangco, Dindo A. Espeleta and Florentino “Binky” Herrera III before the Department of Justice (DoJ) in relation to the takeover of Okada Manila on May 31.

The DoJ earlier indicted the Japanese billionaire and his associates as they were “deemed to have taken the law into their hands.”

It added that despite their claim to a status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court, it does not absolve them of criminal liability for the takeover of the casino resort. 

Under the law, an act is considered grave coercion if a person is prevented by another from doing something not prohibited by law against his will not be, and if the prevention is caused by violence, threats or intimidation.

In July, the Japanese businessman’s camp issued a statement citing the Supreme Court ruling ordering an SQAO, identifying him as the lone representative of TRAL.

The tribunal upheld the SQAO order in August, which temporarily reinstated Mr. Okada as chairman of Okada Manila.

Mr. Okada was previously removed as chairman of TRLEI in 2017 due to alleged mismanagement. — J.V.D. Ordoñez