Kazuo Okada Held by Hong Kong Authorities on Fraud Charges
Japanese gaming billionaire Kazuo Okada allegedly was arrested in Hong Kong on fraud charges, according to multiple Chinese media sources. Kazuo Okada disputes that he was arrested by officials in Hong Kong, though South China Morning Post and other reputable Chinese news sources reported the arrest.
Kazuo Okada is the founder of Universal Entertainment Corp, the Japanese pachinko and slot machine manufacturer. In the past few years, Okada left Universal Entertainment to build casinos of his own in the Philippines. Okada has been dogged by charges of corruption and investigations in the Philippines, Japan, and the United States.
The Chinese media reports that Mr. Okada was detained by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong. The commission, established in 1974, is an independent agency which investigates and eliminates corrupt business practices.
The ICAC said in a public statement on the arrest, “Upon receipt of a corruption complaint and should there be sufficient information to pursue, the ICAC will follow up on it in accordance with the law and established procedures.”
Okada’s Departure from Universal
Kazuo Okada left Universal Entertainment after two cases, one in 2015 and one in 2016, in which he was alleged to have misappropriated company funds. In the 2015 case, it was learned that Okada had transferred HK$135 million to Goldluck Tech Limited “as a loan”. Later, it was learned that Okada was asscoaited with Goldluck Tech.
The Goldluck Tech transfer was done without the necessary approval of the Universal Entertainment board.
Tiger Resort Asia Alleged Embezzlement
In 2016, Okada was involving in the preparation of a HK$16-million bearer check from a subsidiary of Universal Entertainment named Tiger Resort Asia. An inpendendent auditing unit probed the matter and determined that Okada had sought personal gain in the matter.
After that incident, Kazuo Okada was forced out of Tiger Resort Asia and its subdivision, Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment. Tiger Resort Leisure owned the Okada Manila integrated casino resort, a $2 billion structure was Kazuo Okada once said he was his start to a Manila strip akin to the Las Vegas Strip.
Philippine Justice Department Probe
In recent months, the Philippine Department of Justice announced it would open an investigation into the Tiger Resort Leisure fiasco. A prominent Philippine senator also opened senatorial hearings into the case, compounding the trouble for the much-maligned Japanese businessman.
The probe Justice Department probe determined that Chloe Kim, an Okada associate, had leaked documents from the investigation on her Facebook page. The document was signed by Paranaque City Prosecutor Amerhassan Paudac, indicating he had been recruited to whitewash the case.
Tiger Resort Leisure asked the Philippine DoJ to investigate, claiming Okana and Paudac had conspired to “whitewash” the case in a “self-serving and unjustified” manner. The results of that investigation still have not been released.
Dispute with Steve Wynn
At a time, he was business partners with Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts fame. Okada was a major shareholder of Wynn Resorts and sat on the board of directors.
When Steve Wynn forced Okada off the Wynn board in 2010-2011, it led to a 2012 lawsuit which took 6 years to resolve. Kazuo Okada was unable to divest himself of the Wynn stock until 2022 — at least until Steve Wynn’s own legal troubles led the Wynn board to come to an arrangement in the spring of 2018.
Kazuo Okada Arrested in Hong Kong
Now, it appears that Kazuo Okada has been arrested in Hong Kong on fraud charges. It is unknown whether the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is charging Okada with crimes specific to Hong Kong or if he is being charged with general corruption stemming from his dealings in the Philippines, Japan, and the United States.
Universal Entertainment Corp. released a statement on Okada’s arrest, which stressed that the company founder “has no further connection with us whatsoever.”