Universal Entertainment’s Kazuo Okada Ousted from Philippines Casino for Alleged $17 Million Improper Transfer

Posted on: June 20, 2017, 01:20h. 

Last updated on: June 20, 2017, 01:24h.

Japanese slots manufacturer and gaming magnate Kazuo Okada was removed as chairman from Manila’s Okada Casino in the Philippines on Monday. It was the second position the 73-year-old billionaire has lost in as many weeks, after allegations that he improperly transferred $17.3 million from chichi casino Tiger Resorts Asia in March of 2015 to Okada Holdings.

Kazuo Okada and Steve Wynn
Kazuo Okada (left, seen here in 2004 with his former bestie, Steve Wynn) was ousted as chairman from his Okada Casino in the Philippines this week, as an investigation into an allegedly improper $17.3 million transfer continues in that country. (Image: Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal via AP)

Two weeks prior, he was relieved as chairman of Universal Entertainment Corp., the company he founded that controls both Philippine casinos.

“As a consequence of the recent actions at Universal Entertainment a special stockholders’ meeting of Tiger Resort was convened followed by an organizational meeting of the board,” stated the casino’s press release. “Mr. Kazuo Okada was removed as chairman of the board.”

“Serious Violation of Governance”

The potential fraud was uncovered earlier this month and Okada was asked for an explanation as to why $17.3 million was taken from Tiger Resorts Asia and put in a company controlled by Okada and his son. When he could not satisfactorily justify the transaction, Universal hired three external experts to work with an in-house auditor to uncover the alleged infractions.

It was discovered Monday that another $2 million was withdrawn at the same time as the initial multimillion dollar transfer. That money was also taken from an account associated with Tiger Resort Asia.

In light of those alleged transgressions, Okada was stripped of his two chairmanships. The investigative committee expects to issue a full report at the end of June. It’s unclear yet as to whether Okada will face criminal charges.

Besieged by Controversies

It was the latest scandal the casino entrepreneur has endured. In addition to losing two power titles, Okada is also the subject of an FBI investigation, as well as in litigation with his former friend, Steve Wynn.

The Bureau scrutinized him over a $40 million payment he allegedly made to a consultant in Manila in an effort to curry favor and get tax breaks for his proposed $2.4 billion casino in that country. The American law agency became involved because under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it’s a crime for companies with US operations to bribe foreign government officials.

Casino titan Steve Wynn was leery of Okada’s dealings in the Southeast Asian island and in 2012, removed him from the board of Wynn Resorts. The two had had a long friendship, dating back to when the Wynn’s eponymous Las Vegas property was first being built. The Japanese businessman loaned Wynn $455 million for both his resort on the Las Vegas Strip and his property in Macau.

The duo was poised to enter into a powerful partnership, but when the allegations of bribery arose, Wynn disavowed himself from Okada and actually helped the FBI with its investigation. Okada and Wynn ended up filing lawsuits against the other and the cases are still pending.