Kazuo Okada Allies Seize Control of Manila Casino

June 1, 2022
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Allies of Japanese gaming mogul Kazuo Okada and a team of security guards have seized on-site control of Okada Manila, the Philippine integrated resort that Okada built but lost in 2017 after years of corporate warfare.

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Allies of Japanese gaming mogul Kazuo Okada and a team of security guards have seized on-site control of Okada Manila, the Philippine integrated resort (IR) that Okada built but lost in 2017 after years of corporate warfare.

A statement by Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI), the Okada Manila operator that ousted the former pachinko king, alleged on Tuesday (May 31) that a former board member and his associates and some 50 security personnel entered the property and forcibly expelled current board members.

TRLEI said the group — accompanied by local police, the sheriff of a Parañaque City court and gambling regulator PAGCOR — “illegally and violently took over the premises of Okada Manila, employing brute force and intimidation to compel key legitimate officers to vacate the premises”.

TRLEI identified the Okada allies as communications tycoon and former TLREI director Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, former TRLEI chief executive advisor Dindo Espeleta and attorney Florencio Herrera III.

The group seized control of the property “on the pretext that they were authorised by a court order, but refused to show to anyone a copy of any writ authorising their actions”, the statement said.

“We are appalled at the blatant disregard of authority by the group of Mr. Cojuangco. They arrived with a private security group who forcibly carried the legitimate members of the TRLEI Board out of the property premises,” said Estrella Elamparo, an external attorney for TRLEI.

A statement with Okada Manila letterhead that the Okada group released late Tuesday said that Cojuangco is now serving as president of TRLEI parent company Tiger Resort Asia Limited (TRAL), along with Espeleta as vice chairman, following Okada’s “reinstatement” by the Supreme Court in April as sole representative of TRAL and as shareholder, director, chairman and CEO of TRLEI.

“The group of Chairman Kazuo Okada is once again managing Okada Manila,” the statement said. “All operations remain business as usual.”

Tuesday’s extraordinary confrontation follows a Supreme Court “status quo ante” order in the long-running dispute between Okada and his successors that seemed to restore Okada’s standing.

Okada hit rock bottom in 2017 after losing control of Okada Manila as part of a family conflict that saw him ousted in Japan as boss of ultimate parent company Universal Entertainment.

But TRLEI rejected the Okada group’s interpretation of what it called a “temporary or provisional order”, adding that the Supreme Court “is still studying the case”.

“With the use of brute force, the interlopers have kidnapped [Asiabest Group International chairman] Mr. Hajime Tokuda and as of this time brought him out of the hotel.

“In the process, they also harmed and caused serious injuries against the other officers of the company, and their lawyers who were present,” TRLEI said in its statement.

It was not immediately clear if the Supreme Court authorised the seizure, or whether the Parañaque court sheriff acted with the Supreme Court’s approval.

“This violence must be condemned and is a serious criminal offence,” Elamparo said. “What they did to Mr. Tokuda is no less than kidnapping. They are acting like hoodlums under the command of the sham board.”

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