TOKYO May 1 Universal Entertainment Corp
and its billionaire founder Kazuo Okada have filed a
criminal complaint against Wynn Resorts Ltd and its CEO
Steve Wynn in Japan on allegations of defamation.
The complaint marks the latest salvo in a long-running feud
between the two former business partners.
Universal said in a statement on Wednesday that it submitted
the complaint with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office
on April 24, accusing the U.S. casino operator and its CEO of
"defamation, harm to public trust and circulation of rumors" in
relation to the publication of an investigation into Universal's
conduct in the Philippines.
The investigation was commissioned by Wynn and made public
in early 2012.
In an emailed statement, Wynn said the criminal complaint
was an attempt by Okada "to create a distraction from the
investigations pending against him".
Wynn said the complaint was related to a previously filed
civil defamation case that a Tokyo court, ruling it should not
be tried in Japan, dismissed last year. Universal is appealing
Universal filed the civil defamation case after Wynn
published its investigation into Okada in February 2012,
alleging his company improperly offered gifts and entertainment
to gaming officials in South Korea and the Philippines.
Universal has acknowledged spending a total of $110,000 over
three years on such outlays, but maintains they did not
constitute a violation of U.S. anti-bribery laws.
Following the investigation, Wynn said Okada was unsuitable
as a director of Wynn Resorts and redeemed Okada's 20 percent
stake in Wynn Resorts at a discount.
The battle between the former partners has been playing out
in courts in the United States, Japan and the Philippines for
more than two years.
While Universal said in its statement that Tokyo prosecutors
had accepted the complaint, it was unclear whether that would
translate into an official investigation.
To date nothing has come of a similar criminal complaint
filed by Okada against Wynn in the Philippines in December 2012.
The tussle between Okada and Wynn reaches a critical
juncture in the coming days, when a six-month stay on discovery
in their U.S. civil proceedings ends.
A "status check" hearing before Clark County District Judge
Elizabeth Gonzales is scheduled for May 8, according to the
Gonzales had put the civil proceedings on hold to allow U.S.
prosecutors to continue investigating Okada and his companies
for possible bribery in the Philippines.
That criminal investigation centers on $40 million in
payments made by Universal affiliates to a politically connected
consultant in 2010.
The payments were made around the same time Universal was
lobbying for concessions for a casino it is developing on Manila
Universal and Okada, who founded and controls the Japanese
pachinko gaming machine maker, have denied any wrongdoing.
The Philippine government has said it was investigating the
payments. The Nevada Gaming Control Board, the Las Vegas gaming
regulator, is also probing the payments, according to people
with knowledge of the matter.
Universal has filed a defamation suit against Reuters in
Tokyo for its reporting on the $40 million in payments. A
Reuters spokesman said the company stands by its reporting.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in TOKYO; Additional reporting by
Farah Master in HONG KONG; Editing by David Holmes and Ryan Woo)