Kazuo Okada Group Denies $36.4M Payment to Newly Installed Okada Manila Chairman

Posted on: June 24, 2022, 05:19h. 

Last updated on: June 27, 2022, 05:56h.

Another day, another controversy stemming from Kazuo Okada’s May 31 forcible takeover of his namesake integrated resort, Okada Manila in the Philippines.

Kazuo Okada Manila casino TRLEI Tiger Resort
The group that has helped Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada (pictured) regain control of his namesake Okada Manila casino in the Philippines is denying claims that it sent more than $36 million to a close friend of Kazuo. Okada Manila remains in a high-stakes intra-corporate ownership dispute. (Image: AFP)

Reports surfaced this week that the Kazuo-led group that took control of the $2.4 billion casino late last month has since made an unauthorized PHP2 billion (US$36.4 million) payment to a company owned by the group’s chairman, Dindo Espelata.

Espelata is a close friend and business partner of Okada. Espelata controls the construction firm Trans Asia Construction Development Corp.

Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) is the owner-operator of Okada Manila. It is also the corporation that the Kazuo-led group assumed control of last month by forcing its former executives out of their corporate positions. The current TRLEI firm is controlled by Kazuo, who has since installed Espelata as its chairman.

The former TRLEI governance was controlled by Okada’s own son, Tomohiro Okada, who no longer speaks with his father after he accused his family’s patriarch of stealing money from TRLEI and Universal Entertainment in 2017. That led to Kazuo’s ousting that year, and one observer says the Trans Asia payment highlights the true intentions of Kazuo’s unwarranted actions.

“It paints a clear picture that the illegally constituted board’s true priority isn’t the success of the business, nor the welfare of its employees,” said attorney Estrella Elamparo in a release on behalf of the “legitimate TRLEI board.”

Kazuo Denies Payment

In the wake of the reports that the Kazuo-controlled TRLEI board made a suspect PHP2 billion payment to a company controlled by its chairman, Philippines banks began freezing Okada Manila’s accounts “due to the ongoing intra-corporate dispute in the operator of Okada Manila.”

BDO Unibank, Asia United Bank, and Union Bank of the Philippines, all of which serve Okada Manila’s financial dealings, have confirmed that the casino’s assets have been frozen.

Elamparo says the PHP2 billion payment is “beyond absurd,” considering that Espelata’s Trans Asia construction firm actually owes Okada Manila PHP9 billion in “overpayments, contra charges, and financial losses.”

Kazuo Group Denies Payment

The Kazuo-led TRLEI says the reports of payment to Espelata’s construction firm are incorrect and “fake news.”

Okada Manila strongly condemns the continued attempts to discredit and malign the reputation of its current and legitimate board with the false allegations and fake news made by its rival group through their lawyer,” a statement from the Kazuo-controlled TRLEI said. “Okada Manila believes that the sole purpose of these allegations is to disrupt Okada Manila’s operations.”

TRLEI went on to say that there “is no proof” that such a transaction was made. As for the PHP9 billion in claimed overpayments to Trans Asia, the firm contends that “if there was really an overpayment, Atty. Elamparo should attribute the fault or negligence to the previous board, which she now represents.”

The Kazuo group explained that if overpayments were indeed made, a forthcoming internal audit investigation will handle a resolution. The group concluded by saying the current TRLEI governance “is here to safeguard the interest of Okada Manila, its employees, and its investors.”

TRLEI added that it’s mulling legal recourse to the payment allegations raised by the former TRLEI board.