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Kazuo Okada denies bribery allegations in first published statement since Okada Manila takeover

Okada Manila founder Kazuo Okada has issued a Chairman’s statement to staff in which he denies bribery allegations and offers his endorsement of Dindo Espeleta and Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco only “until my next visit to the Philippines.”

He also claims to be preparing a lawsuit against Hajime Tokuda, a director of the TRAL-backed board of Okada Manila operator Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc (TRLEI), for his claims that a group led by representatives of Kazuo Okada had manhandled him during a “violent invasion” and takeover of the property in late May.

His message in full reads:

“Hello, this is ‘Daddy O’ Okada.

“I am very sorry for the trouble and concern I have caused you. I would like to share with you the facts regarding this matter.

“The Supreme Court of the Philippines has issued a Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO), which ordered that status quo prevailing prior to my removal as stockholder, director, Chairman and CEO of Tiger Resort and Leisure, Inc. in 2017 be maintained, consequently restoring me as sole representative of Tiger Resort Asia Limited (TRAL).

“Pursuant to the SQAO, I have appointed Mr Dindo Espeleta as Vice Chairman and Mr Antonio O. Cojuangco as President of Okada Manila until my next visit to the Philippines.

“On May 31, 2022, my team, including Mr Dindo, accompanied by court enforcement officers, PAGCOR officials, and police officers for security purposes, went to Okada Manila to enforce the SQAO. We negotiated with Mr. Hajime Tokuda, who was present there.

“During the negotiation process, there were no slanderous or violent acts, and we presented the Supreme Court’s decision and proceeded with peaceful discussions. Mr Tokuda peacefully surrendered his ID and left the conference room. However, when Mr Tokuda’s lawyers, led by Atty Estrella Elamparo, arrived outside the conference room, they intentionally shouted and made it seem as if we were violent, intentionally making it seem as if there was a dispute.

“Surveillance cameras were installed in the Okada Manila office, and these cameras bear witness to the fact.

“After some time, Mr Tokuda together with his lawyers and other ousted directors transferred to the Golden Ballroom. After being asked several times by Okada security to peacefully leave the Ballroom, Mr Tokuda and his associates rebelled and stayed in the Ballroom. Okada security, in accordance with Okada Security Department Standard Operating Procedure and Security Induction Training, physically carried Mr Tokuda out of the Ballroom to the parking area where he rode his car and was driven to his home by his former driver.

“Some information on the internet and other extreme comments such as illegal and violent invasion, occupation of territory, and abduction have been taken up by Universal’s Investor Relations report, and we believe that the facts that show the opposite happened will be revealed by the surveillance camera. We are preparing a lawsuit against Mr Tokuda’s actions, which we say are in violation of and repugnant to the Supreme Court’s order.

“A few days later, I made a call for unity among the employees at the Okada Manila banquet hall to further revitalize Okada Manila. I would like to thank all the employees for their warm welcome.

“There are posts on the internet as if there were allegations of bribes, but please be assured that this is not the case at all. I will continue to make fair and honest claims and continue to do the right thing.

“I will continue to strive to make the property a premier tourist destination in the Philippines that attracts many customers. I created Okada Manila with a dream, but I was kicked out right after the opening. I would like to thank the people of the Philippines and the Supreme Court for giving me another chance to make ‘my dream’ come true.”

The previous TRAL-backed board of TRLEI is taking legal action of its own against Kazuo Okada and recently claimed the current board had paid Php 2 billion (US$36.7 million) in “expenses” to a company led by TRLEI’s own Vice Chairman, Dindo Espeleta.

The takeover has also been opposed by Jason Ader, Founder and CEO of Springowl Asset Management and driving force behind the 26 Capital SPAC looking to list Okada Manila in the United States.

The merger between TRLEI and 26 Capital has been delayed by three months until 30 September 2022.


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