Universal takes charge on Philippine payout at heart of FBI probe
TOKYO May 20 (Reuters) - Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp booked a charge on Monday against a $25 million payment at the centre of a FBI investigation into possible bribery in the Philippines, saying there was no reason for the payment to have been made.
Universal had previously booked the $25 million as a payment to Rodolfo Soriano, a consultant with ties to the former head of the Philippine gaming regulator, to secure land development rights for its $2-billion casino project on Manila Bay.
The company said in its annual earnings statement on Monday that an accounting expert hired to look into the matter had determined there was no need to have made the $25 million payment to Soriano.
In March, in response to questions from Reuters, Universal said it had determined that the land development rights had been obtained for free in 2009. As a result, it said there was no basis for the payment to have been made in 2010.
The revised accounting marked the second time the company has changed the way it booked payments to Soriano. In February it said a $10 million transfer to Soriano had been improperly booked but stood by the $25 million as a justified outlay in the Philippines.
UHY Tokyo & Co, the auditor who signed off on the February earnings statement and whose predecessor firm audited Universal's earnings in 2010, has not returned calls seeking comment.
Universal, which gets most of its sales from pachinko and pachislot gaming machines in Japan, reported a net profit of 27.45 billion yen for the year ended in March, down 12.5 percent from the previous year.
Reuters first reported on the company's payments to Soriano in November. The payments have been the subject of investigations by the FBI, the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation and the Nevada state gaming regulator since last year.
In January Universal commissioned a panel of outside experts to investigate the payments. That panel has yet to announce its findings.
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