No evidence to prove Okada-Pagcor bribery issue — DOJ

Rappler.com
Investigators hit a blank wall due to the reluctance of witnesses to testify that Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada's group bribed Filipino regulators for its Manila casino project

EVIDENCE NEEDED. A justice department panel has yet to find enough evidence that Universal Entertainment of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada bribed Filipino regulators. This photo shows the artist's rendition of Okada's Manila Bay Resorts

MANILA, Philippines – An investigating team of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said there is not enough evidence yet to confirm if Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada and his company, Universal Entertainment, indeed bribed Filipino regulators in 2010 for an upcoming Manila casino project.

On Monday, July 15, the DOJ said in a statement that it has found Anti-Dummy Law violations by 25 individuals and 10 companies involved in the acquisition of land where Okada’s US$2-billion Manila Bay Resorts project will be located.

The DOJ said its investigators hit a blank wall while going through the questionable $40- million fund transfer from Universal Entertainment to the accounts of entities associated with a former official of the Philippine Gaming Corp (Pagcor) Rodolfo Soriano.

They attributed this to the “reluctance of potential witnesses to testify.”

The panel said they “investigated claims of bribery involving an alleged total amount of US$40 million paid in 2010 to a then consultant of Pagcor, Rodolfo V. Soriano Jr, who…is also one of the incorporators of Platinum, identified as one of the possible dummies of Universal in the Entertainment City project.”

Official investigation on the controversial fund transfer was triggered in 2012 by the “Freeh report.” Former United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Louis Freeh was engaged by Wynn Resorts, which Okada used to jointly own and control with partner-turned-rival, Steve Wynn.

Okada was being investigated by the Nevada gaming board, who was supplied a copy of the Freeh report, on whether the Japanese billionaire breached his fiduciary duties in Wynn Resorts while he was pursuing the Manila casino project.

“While the panel succeeded in gathering sufficient evidence to verify the fact of payment, which was made through various and successive wire transfers from Universal or its affiliates which can be eventually traced to Soriano, there has yet to be gathered sufficient evidence regarding the purpose for such payment,” the DOJ report said.

The DOJ considered “indications” that the payment was not meant as a bribe.

“Some sources allege that the payments were reflected in the books of Universal as either consultancy fees or payment in consideration for the settlement of road lot issues encountered by Eagle I. However, doubts are cast on the correctness of the same considering that the panel was able to verify that the issue was resolved in 2009 without any cash transactions involved, through the execution of a Memorandum of Agreement.”

Under the said MOA, Asiaworld Properties Philippines Corp (Asiaworld) donated the subject property to the City of Paranaque (represented by then Mayor Florencio Bernabe), with the understanding that Eagle I shall develop said road lots, since the same is practically part of the site where Okada Resorts will be built.

Eagle I was among the 3 companies the DOJ has found to have violated the Anti-Dummy law.

The DOJ likewise considered the possibility that corporate governance practices at Universal Entertainment were the culprit. It cited the June 21 report of the 3rd party committee that Universal has tapped to conduct its own independent inquiry on the fund transfers.

“Said committee recently came up with a report dated 21 June 2013, characterizing US$25 million thereof as payment by mistake, another $5 million as unauthorized payment and !0 million as having been circulated back to Universal as compensation for loss,” the DOJ said.

“While the facts and evidence gathered thus far are insufficient to justify the filing of bribery charges against the subjects of the investigation, the Panel, nevertheless, gathered documentary evidence and identified potential witnesses and sources, which may serve as leads for further investigation and/or case build up,” the DOJ said. – Rappler.com

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