Kazuo Okada Claims Innocence in Corruption Investigation, Says Universal Running Smear Campaign

Posted on: August 13, 2018, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: August 13, 2018, 09:08h.

Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada is defending his reputation against corruption claims asserted by Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC), the company he founded and made into one of Asia’s largest gaming groups.

Kazuo Okada Manila scandal
Known as the “Pachinko King,” Kazuo Okada is attempting to once again clear his name from more devious labels. (Image: AFP)

Following his arrest earlier this month in Hong Kong, the 75-year-old Okada is firing back at media speculation that the businessman has been charged with any wrongdoing in the Special Administrative Region. Aruze Gaming, which Okada still controls, says an arrest in Hong Kong greatly differs from being arrested in other parts of the world.

“It is important to note that the concept of arrest is very different in Hong Kong,” the Aruze statement read. “In Hong Kong, it is routine for the police to arrest individuals at early stages of their investigation to interview them.”

“An arrest usually precedes a complete and thorough investigation and it certainly does not mean that the police believe that the arrested person is guilty,” Aruze continued. “No judge or court is involved in the decision to arrest usually, and no probable cause is required in the decision to arrest in Hong Kong.”

Aruze says Universal is trying to harm Okada’s reputation by releasing its own statements on the matter that claim the arrest is due to “corruption-related offenses.”

Okada Scandals

Okada is no stranger to controversy. An early investor in Wynn Resorts, Aruze, Okada, and Steve and Elaine Wynn controlled about half the stock in the company’s early years.

In 2012, Wynn Resorts forced Okada to sell his stake, 20 percent of the entire company at the time, after allegations came forward that the Japanese businessman was bribing regulators in the Philippines. The scandal led to Steve Wynn opting not to invest in Okada Manila, the integrated casino resort that went on to cost $2.4 billion to construct.

Universal’s board pushed Okada out of the company last year after it determined that he used roughly $20 million of the corporation’s money to purchase artworks. Aruze says Okada has done nothing wrong.

“The first time the [Hong Kong] Independent Commission Against Corruption heard Mr. Okada’s side of the story was when he voluntarily presented himself for questioning,” Aruze declared. “We reiterate that no criminal charges have been filed. The investigative process will provide the opportunity for the truth to come out.”

Retake Company

Okada isn’t simply looking to clear the negative press surrounding his name. Instead, the man Forbes estimates to be worth $2.3 billion is planning to take back the company he founded nearly 50 years ago.

“Mr. Okada will regain control of the company he founded and repair the damage these acts by UEC have caused his family,” Aruze stated. “Mr. Okada is innocent and he is an upstanding, honorable and respectable person.”

“All the allegations made against me are entirely false,” Okada told This Week In Asia. “Universal is simply attempting to irreparably damage my reputation. I am confident that the investigation will prove the absurdity of these allegations and that I will be able to regain control of the companies I founded.”

Okada says the $20 million was taken out as a legal director’s loan.