Kazuo Okada, the billionaire owner of Universal Entertainment Corp and Nevada-based Aruze USA Inc., is being investigated for alleged bribery in connection with a US$2 billion casino project in the Philippines. In an unexpected revelation, US federal prosecutors had asked for a delay of another lawsuit brought by Wynn Resorts Ltd so that the bribery investigations could progress smoothly. This was the first time that the US investigation into Okada and his companies became public knowledge.
The US Department of Justice is currently seeking a temporary stay on the lawsuit brought by Wynn Resorts to allow for the criminal case against Okada to be developed. In the document that the Department of Justice filed, it also gave a suggestion to the Nevada courts that Wynn would most likely consent to the motion while Okada would oppose it. The bribery allegations in question refer to an incident that Reuters had already reported on – without formal and public acknowledgement from the US authorities – that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into US$40 million in payments from Okada’s company Universal to allegedly benefit the former head of the Philippine gaming authority in 2010. This coincided with the time that the Japanese company was granted concessions for outing up a casino in the Manila Bay area. Universal filed a defamation suit against Reuters in Tokyo in December for this specific issue.
On the other hand, Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn and Okada had been locked in a lawsuit for over a year now, with allegations of illegal financial practices coming between the former business partners. The US federal authorities revealed that they are also in the middle of a criminal investigation into Wynn’s business, specifically a donation in 2011 to the University of Macau Development Foundation. Both parties have pledged to cooperate with the US authorities.
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