TOKYO/SAN FRANCISCO, March 8 Universal
Entertainment Corp founder Kazuo Okada and three other
directors of the Japanese gaming company have been summoned by
the Nevada casino regulator to a closed-door hearing next week,
two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The hearing marks an escalation of an investigation the
Nevada Gaming Control Board initiated last year into $40 million
in payments by Universal to a politically-connected consultant
in relation to its casino project in the Philippines.
Separately, the FBI and its Philippine counterpart, the
National Bureau of Investigation, have been investigating the
payments to consultant Rodolfo Soriano, people with knowledge of
those criminal investigations said.
Universal has said it conducted its business in the
Philippines lawfully, and has announced a defamation lawsuit
against Reuters for its reporting on the payments to Soriano.
Soriano could not be reached for comment.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board declined to comment on
whether a hearing had been called. A Universal spokesman also
declined to comment.
It was not clear when or whether Nevada regulators would
take any action in their review of Universal. The regulator has
the power to revoke gaming licenses if it finds that individuals
involved in the industry are unsuitable.
In addition to Okada, who is Universal's board chairman,
Nevada regulators have summoned Hajime Tokuda, Kenshi Asano, and
Hiroyuki Sawada to the hearing scheduled for March 13-14. All
four plan to attend, said the sources, who didn't want to be
identified because of the private nature of the hearing. None of
the four have been accused of any wrongdoing.
For more than a year Okada has been locked in a legal battle
with Wynn Resorts Ltd Chief Executive Steve Wynn,
during which the former business partners have exchanged
allegations of illegal conduct.
Okada resigned from Wynn's board last month ahead of a
shareholder meeting to remove the Japanese billionaire on
grounds he was "unsuitable". Okada has rejected
Wynn's allegations and vowed to fight the forcible redemption of
his 20 percent stake in the U.S. casino company at a discount