TOKYO, April 10 Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada
and his companies are being investigated in the United States
for potential violations of anti-bribery laws in relation to a
$2 billion casino project in the Philippines, according to a
In a Nevada state court filing, U.S. federal prosecutors
sought permission to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Wynn
Resorts Ltd against Okada to prevent disrupting an
ongoing criminal probe into the bribery allegations.
It was the first time U.S. authorities publicly acknowledged
a criminal investigation of Okada and his companies - Japan's
Universal Entertainment Corp and Nevada-based Aruze
USA Inc - for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act, an anti-bribery statute dating to the 1970s.
The government also noted in the filing that it has been
conducting a criminal investigation into Wynn's donation in 2011
to the University of Macau Development Foundation. Okada has
said Wynn's board turned against him for opposing the donation.
For more than a year Okada has been locked in a legal battle
with Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn, during which the former
business partners have exchanged allegations of illegal conduct.
Shares of Universal Entertainment, which generates the bulk
of its profits from making pachinko gaming machines for the
Japanese market, tumbled 15.7 percent to 1,666 yen on Wednesday
- their biggest one-day drop in almost 14 months.
The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking a temporary stay
on discovery in the civil proceedings to allow for the criminal
case to be developed. Wynn would consent to the motion while
Okada would likely oppose it, according to the filing.
"Universal is cooperating fully with all investigations,"
said Eric Andrus, a spokesman for the Japanese company at RLM
Finsbury. Kim Sinatra, general counsel for Wynn Resorts, said
the company would continue to cooperate with the government.
Reuters has reported that the Federal Bureau of
Investigation was probing $40 million in payments from Universal
to a close associate of the former head of the Philippine gaming
authority in 2010 around the time the company was granted
concessions for its Manila Bay casino.
Universal said in December it filed a defamation suit
against Reuters in Tokyo for its reporting on the payments.