Steve Wynn Reportedly Aiding FBI Probe of Japanese Billionaire Kazuo Okada
Posted on: January 11, 2017, 12:00h.
Last updated on: January 12, 2017, 06:07h.
Steve Wynn has been reportedly assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) since the Las Vegas billionaire brought a lawsuit against Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada in early 2013.
Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC) was an early investor of Wynn’s Las Vegas vision. In exchange for financing the completion of Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Macau to the tune of $455 million, the Japanese billionaire received a 20 percent stake in the publicly traded hotel and gaming company.
Wynn and Okada had planned to work on another project together in 2008, this time in the Philippines, but Steve backed out on corruption concerns in the Southeast Asian island country. Okada moved forward on the Manila project, a decision that ultimately led to their falling out.
According to a special report from Reuters this week, former UEC executive Yoshitaka Fujihara says he was bribed by Wynn to travel to the US and be interrogated by federal investigators.
The FBI opened its probe into Okada after Wynn filed a civil lawsuit claiming his former friend spent over $100,000 to wine and dine Filipino gaming officials while still sitting on the Wynn Resorts board.
After the expenses incurred from hosting decision makers from the Philippines came to light in 2012, Wynn removed Okada from the board of directors.
The Japanese investor argued expenditures to cover travel costs weren’t made to gain good favor for his Manila casino. However, a later payment of $40 million came from Okada companies to an alleged middleman in Manila.
The $2.4 billion Okada Manila resort opened on December 30, 2016. With over 280,000 square feet of gaming space, it is the largest casino in the Philippines.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prevents US companies from bribing foreign governments.
According to UEC, Wynn sent James Stern, a former FBI agent and interrogator turned casino security expert, to Japan in order to convince Fujihara to meet with law enforcement officials on US soil. The plan worked, and the executive was flown to the US on Wynn’s dime to meet with investigators.
Aiding the FBI
The lawsuit between Wynn and Okada is still ongoing, but the question now being raised is whether a US corporation should be aiding a federal investigation for its own gain. Fujihara was one of nearly a dozen UEC workers Wynn Resorts flew to the United States to testify about the case.
The FCPA law is grey when it comes to companies assisting the US in an investigation of an overseas organization. Law experts say it isn’t necessarily illegal, but there might be a need for an ethical boundary.
Okada, of course, believes Wynn’s actions are in the wrong.
“We learned earlier this year that Wynn Resorts has instigated and extensively facilitated a federal criminal investigation,” Okada attorney Stephen Peek said during a court hearing in 2015.
The case is being heard in Nevada’s Clark County, home to Las Vegas. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez is presiding over the deliberations, and has ordered Stern to provide more testimony on his actions in the coming months.
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