'Violent Takeover' of Okada Manila Dangerous and Could Tarnish Philippine Reputation, Says Operator
The Philippine government should not allow such “dangerous acts” similar to the “violent takeover” of Okada Manila last week as this could tarnish the country’s reputation as a destination for foreign investments, representatives of Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. (TRAL), the owner of Okada Manila operator Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) said.
During a press briefing on Monday (June 5), Takako Okada, the estranged wife of Kazuo Okada and representative of Hong Kong-based TRAL, said the company “condemns the violent acts that happened in Okada Manila last Tuesday, May 31,” adding that it “never recognized the group of Mr. Tonyboy Cojuangco” as the new board of TRLEI.
Earlier on Monday, TRLEI officials filed a complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging kidnapping, serious illegal detention, grave coercion, and unjust vexation against Kazuo Okada, Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, five other company board members, and at least 14 others.
While the group of Kazuo Okada said the takeover was peaceful, TRLEI officials characterized it as violent and said several of its officers, including Hajime Tokuda, director of Universal Entertainment Corp (parent company of TRAL), were “manhandled”
“I am hopeful that the Philippine government will not allow such dangerous acts,” Takako Okada said. “I fear situations like this will not create a friendly environment for foreign investors. We came to the Philippines, met many people, saw the smiling faces and kindness of the people, and felt a strong sense of hope for the future of this country. That’s why we have chosen this place and proceeded with the major project hoping that our facility will become one of the symbols of the Philippines.”
Divina Law's Atty. Estrella Elemparo and Michiaki Satate, co-vice chairman of the TRLEI board, during the press conference on Monday
TRAL issued on June 1 a certification signed by its nominees Takako Okada and MKenshi Asano, putting on record that Kazuo Okada had no right over Okada Manila.
“TRAL has not authorized Mr. Kazuo Okada to vote the shares of stock of TRAL in TRLEI, nor represent TRAL in TRLEI’s meetings, nor in any manner act on behalf of TRAL,” a copy of the certification read.
According to official company records, TRAL owns 99.99 percent of the subscriber and outstanding capital stock in TRLEI. Listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Universal Entertainment Corp. (UEC) owns 100 percent of TRAL.
Okada Holdings Ltd. (OHL), a company incorporated in Hong Kong, is controlled by Tomohiro Okada with a 53.47 percent shareholding, while the remainder 46.55 percent is held by Kazuo Okada.
“[N]ot having any authority to bind and represent TRAL, Mr. Kazuo Okada cannot appoint anyone as his agent to do what he cannot lawfully do,” TRAL’s certification read. “Any and all other acts to be done or performed by the Kazuo Okada Group on behalf of TRAL and in conducting the business of TRLEI and Okada Hotel and Casino are likewise void and illegal.”
TRLEI invested $2.3 billion to build Okada Manila, an integrated casino resort in Paranaque City. Its management, however, was marred by an intra-corporate dispute that circles around the ouster of its founder Kazuo Okada.
Kazuo was removed from TRLEI in 2017 for alleged mismanagement. He has filed several cases in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines to reinstate him as part of the company but failed to muster victory.
However, in April 2022, he was able to secure a status quo ante order (SQAO) from the Philippine Supreme Court, allowing him to return as stockholder, chairman, and chief executive. The TRAL-backed TRLEI board has since filed a motion to revoke the SQAO.
The SQAO is a temporary measure that the High Court issues while it reviews the case. The same document was cited by the Kazuo Group—led by Cojuangco and a certain Dindo Espeleta—to storm Okada Manila on May 31, where the alleged manhandling of senior executives of TRLEI to boot them out of the premises took place.
Video evidence presented during the press briefing showed TRLEI executive Hajime Tokuda being protected by his team of lawyers and staff, but was then brought out of Okada Manila’s ballroom on all fours. Tokuda was said to have been forcibly placed inside an unknown car, driven to different areas, but was eventually brought back to his home after pleading to the “conscience” of those who captured him.
'No Incidence of Violence Took Place'
However, the camp of Kazuo claimed that the “charges being leveled against Messrs. Okada, Cojuanco, and Espeleta are pure fabrication and have no legal basis whatsoever.”
In a reply to Esquire Philippines’ queries, Kazuo Group’s spokesperson Vicente Lim claimed that no incidence of violence occurred during the “enforcement of the SQAO.”
“No untoward incidents were reported by the police who were present during the enforcement of the SQAO,” he added.
Divina Law partner Estrella Alamparo, who represented the TRAL-recognized TRLEI board, noted that the camp of Kazuo had no right, under the SQAO, to physically take over the Okada Manila property.
In fact, she said, the Kazuo Group even filed a manifestation to the Supreme Court dated May 4 to allow the group to enter the premises and take over the offices of Okada Manila.
To date, the Supreme Court has yet to act on this motion. Elamparo said this means what the Kazuo Group have done are blatant acts of contempt of court.
“We intend to file a manifestation with urgent motion for clarification to inform the honorable Supreme Court what transpired last Tuesday in the violent takeover of Okada Manila,” Elamparo said.
Currently, Kazuo Okada and Cojuangco are operating Okada Manila. On Monday, they led a townhall meeting with the staff of Okada Manila explaining the merits of the SQAO, Lim said.