RPT-Japan's Universal issues statement on Philippine payments

Tue Dec 4, 2012 3:38am EST

TOKYO Dec 4 (Reuters) - Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp accused Reuters on Tuesday of "misrecognition of the facts" in publishing stories about millions of dollars in payments from Universal to an ex-consultant to the Philippine gaming authority.

The Reuters stories, published on Nov. 16 and Nov. 30, detailed a series of payments made to Rodolfo Soriano, a close associate of the former head of the gaming authority, between January and May of 2010 when Universal was lobbying for concessions for a casino resort on Manila Bay.

Soriano is now at the centre of a Philippine bribery investigation. The Nov. 30 story said Universal channelled at least $30 million to companies controlled by Soriano, citing company records and people with knowledge of the transactions and related investigations.

"Our stories are accurate and fair and we stand by them and our reporting," said a Reuters spokesperson.

The Philippine Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the payments. The payments are also being probed separately by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the regulator for Universal's businesses in the United States.

Universal said its compliance committee had already reported about its business in the Philippines to Nevada gaming authorities and that it was "certain that the facts of this case will be brought to light in the near future".

Universal, majority owned by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada and his son through a family trust, has filed lawsuits against three former employees of the Universal group for $15 million of the payments, claiming they made the money transfers without proper authorisation.

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