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House itching to grill casino mogul Okada

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House itching to grill casino mogul Okada

/ 06:37 AM May 12, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The House committee on games and amusement will compel Japanese gaming magnate Kazuo Okada to attend its hearings to personally explain allegations he used dummy corporations to meet his casino license requirements.

Kazuo Okada AP FILE PHOTO

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., committee chair, said the panel members were fed up with the stonewalling by Okada’s lawyers at several hearings investigating his use of three dummy companies with the help of two Manila-based law firms to skirt the 40-percent limit on land ownership in his purchase of a 44-hectare property in Entertainment City Manila during the previous administration.

“He (Okada) must come here to personally explain how he plans to comply with the constitutional limitations on foreign ownership after it was discovered that he used fronts. We should subpoena him to ensure his attendance because we cannot rely on just his lawyers’ excuses forever,” said Barzaga.

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Aside from the congressional hearings, Okada has also snubbed the hearings of the Department of Justice on the casino mogul’s anti-dummy violations.

Barzaga said he was surprised that Japan’s pachinko king had no local address in the country.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has temporarily put on hold the license granted to Okada’s Universal Entertainment until he has sorted out the legal questions about his land acquisition. Barzaga said the committee would like to know from Okada whether he had a feasible plan to fix his legal problems or Pagcor would be forced to revoke his license.

Late last year, Okada signed a joint venture deal with the Century Property Group and First Paramount Holdings 888 Inc. of businesswoman Alice Eduardo, which would give the two Filipino firms 60 percent of Eagle 1 Landholdings Inc., Okada’s property affiliate in the country, which in turn owns the land on which the $2-billion Manila Bay Resorts would be developed.

But last March, Okada terminated its partnership with Century, which has put into question Universal Entertainment’s compliance with the country’s laws.

“We believe we should address this problem now rather than wait until Okada has completed his project and the government would be forced to bend over backward for him just to prevent an international lawsuit,” said Barzaga.

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TAGS: Congress, Elpidio Barzaga Jr., gaming and casinos, Japan, Kazuo Okada, land ownership, Philippines
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