The Battle of Okada’s Boardroom Reaches the DOJ

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File photo of Japanese gambling tycoon Kazuo Okada.

MANILA, Philippines — The boardroom’s heated battle for control and management of Okada Manila escalated after Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc.’s (TRLEI) group filed kidnapping charges and other criminal charges against gambling mogul Kazuo Okada and businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.

Okada et al. were charged by their rival group with committing various criminal offenses when they allegedly “stormed” and physically took possession of the high-end integrated casino-hotel complex in Paranaque City on May 31.

Last week’s tense takeover of Okada Manila by the group of Cojuangco and Okada was the latest incident in the years-long legal battle for ownership of one of the country’s largest gambling establishments.

In addition to business partners, the named respondents were Dindo Espeleta, Maximo Modesto Josel Flores, Tetsuya Yokota, Hiroshi Kawamura, and Florentino Herrera III.

Jose Nicolas and a dozen other security personnel from A9 Security and Investigative Services Inc. were also charged.

In three separate complaints, Japanese nationals Hajime Tokuda and Michiaki Satate, and Jaime Lorenzana, board members of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc., said Okada’s group violated their rights by physically evicting them from their offices in Okada Manila.

Tiger Resort

Tokuda said he and the other executives of Tiger Resort, the casino operator, were holding an emergency shareholder meeting with their lawyers when a group of security personnel hired by Okada’s group entered the room. golden ballroom from Okada Manila and grabbed it.

“I was gripped by terror and fear of what was about to happen,” Tokuda said in his 28-page sworn complaint.

“With no regard for basic human decency or respect for the elderly, a group of no less than five security personnel forcibly dragged me out of the Golden Ballroom,” he said.

The whole incident, he said, was recorded on video, a copy of which was submitted to the DOJ as evidence.

The Japanese national said he was then taken to a waiting car driven by Derick Mangupit. Two other men, security personnel Lordgene Navarro and Mark Tambis, who previously worked for Tokuda’s family, also boarded the vehicle, he added.

“I felt really scared and anxious thinking that I would be taken to a remote and isolated area by people I’ve been kind to in the past,” Tokuda said.

“That’s when I reached out to their hearts and begged them to take me home,” he said.

He said he was eventually taken home by the three men, who “even apologized to my daughter as they admitted they were only being constrained by ‘upper management’ orders”, referring to Okada’s group.

The plaintiffs insisted that Okada lacked the power to take over management of the multi-billion dollar gambling company as he only owned a nominal share of Tiger Resort.

Satate said Okada “misled” the Supreme Court that he was the majority shareholder of Okada Holdings Ltd. (OHL), the parent company of Tiger Resort, in filing a motion challenging his removal as director and chairman of the board of Tiger Resort in 2017.

He said Okada’s allegedly false allegation became the basis for the High Court’s April 27 resolution which granted Okada’s motion for the issuance of a Standstill Order (SQAO).

“There is absolutely no truth to (Okada’s) claim that he supposedly owns OHL,” Satate said, citing the company’s official financial documents.

Satate also argued that the High Court order did not allow Okada to be reinstated as the sole representative of Tiger Resort Asia Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company that owned 99% of Tiger Resort.

“Obviously, even after the issuance of the SQAO, (Okada) still had absolutely no authority to take control of (Tiger Resort), let alone take over the Okada Manila premises,” he said. He insists.

In a separate 21-page affidavit, Lorenzana said Okada’s group committed serious coercion by preventing them from holding a meeting with Tiger Resort shareholders and attorneys.

“Clearly, the defendants took the law into their own hands, without regard to the law and due process, just so they could quickly take over the premises of Okada Manila and usurp the board and management of (Tiger Resort),” Lorenzana said.

Okada’s wife Takako herself said in a voice recording released at a press briefing yesterday that the gambling mogul had no business taking over the sprawling entertainment and gambling complex the last week.

Takako is the director of Tiger Resorts Asia Ltd. (TRA), the parent company of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) which operates Okada Manila. Universal Entertainment Corp., listed in Japan, owns TRA.

“We at [TRA] never recognized Mr. Tonyboy Cojuangco’s group and we condemn the acts of violence that occurred in Okada Manila last Tuesday, May 31, 2022,” she said.

Additionally, TRA has only certified Takako, along with Kenshi Asano, as its nominees who hold the voting shares.

Okada/Cojuangco Group has yet to comment on recent developments.

“It is unfortunate that Tonyboy Cojuangco’s group could not react in a legal and peaceful manner, instead of using force like this,” Takako said.

So far, the deposed council has not been allowed to return to the Okada Manila premises. Satate said he had no idea about the current operations of the casino-hotel, which recently regained momentum as the economy reopened.

“We know that a number of employees have been terminated, terminated without just cause. We really don’t know what they do and how it works,” he said.

He is also not confident with the board that has taken over because “the fake board has no experience in running such a place”.

Banks, he said, were also monitoring developments in the Okada crisis.

“The banks are monitoring this file. And of course, they will also have their legal opinions. We also await their final judgment on how they will handle this situation from here,” he said.

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