TOKYO May 14 A panel of outside experts
convened by Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp to investigate
$40 million in payments related to its Philippine casino project
said it was disbanding after the company failed to disclose
their findings to the public.
The four-person panel, headed by a former high-ranking
police official, said in a brief statement distributed to
reporters in Tokyo that it would disband indefinitely because
Universal had not made public an interim report submitted to the
company in March. It did not elaborate.
Universal, which makes Japanese pachi-slot gambling
machines, did not respond to a request for comment on the
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Nevada gaming
regulator and the Philippine government have been probing
whether the $40 million in payments made by affiliates of
Universal in 2010 were bribes to advance a $2 billion casino it
is building on Manila Bay.
Universal has denied such allegations and has said it
conducted its business lawfully in the Philippines.
The Japanese company, controlled by billionaire Kazuo Okada,
initially convened the panel of experts in January of last year
to investigate the payments.
The company said the probe would be handled by people with
no conflicts of interest with the company, in line with
guidelines set by Japan's Federation of Bar Associations. Those
guidelines state that, in principle, the findings of such
investigations should be disclosed to stakeholders without
The panel completed a report last June which concluded there
was no evidence of bribery but cited governance problems at
Universal and noted that a senior executive still with the
company had altered a document used to justify the payments
after the fact in 2012.
In August, Universal announced the panel would add a fourth
member and further investigate the responsibility of those
involved in the payments.
The company has not made any disclosure in relation to the
panel's investigation since that time.
The panel is chaired by Yoshiyuki Kaneshige, a former
Japanese police official who now runs a management consultancy.
The other three members are lawyers: Teruki Uchida, a former
deputy president of the Osaka Securities Exchange, Takujiro
Hamada, an ex finance ministry official, and Atsushi Iritani.
None of the four men were available for immediate comment.
The $40 million being investigated was paid to two companies
controlled by Rodolfo Soriano, a consultant with close ties to
the then head of the Philippine casino regulator, records
reviewed by Reuters show.
Universal sued three former employees in November 2012,
alleging they transmitted $10 million of the payments without
proper authorisation. All three men, including one who was sued
for another $5 million related to the Philippine project, are
contesting those claims in court, saying they were carrying out
orders from Okada.
The company has yet to determine how the bulk of the
payments was used.
Universal has filed a defamation lawsuit against Reuters in
Tokyo for its reporting on the payments. A Reuters spokesman
said the company stands by its reporting on the matter.
(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Elaine Hardcastle)