TOKYO, (Reuters) - A Japanese court rejected a defamation lawsuit by Universal Entertainment Corp against Thomson Reuters Corp and three Reuters journalists, ruling that the articles about the gaming company were true.
Universal sued Reuters for 200 million yen ($1.6 million) in December 2012, saying the news agency defamed it by publishing articles that year relating to $40 million in payments Universal made to a consultant in relation to a casino project in the Philippines.
The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday found Universal’s claims baseless. The company “did not establish illegal activity by defamation, as (the Reuters articles) either did not lower plaintiff Universal’s social reputation or even if they did, were without illegality,” presiding Judge Masaru Sakamoto wrote.
Universal, a Tokyo-based pachinko and casino company controlled by billionaire gambling-machine tycoon Kazuo Okada, has 14 days to appeal after receiving the decision. Company officials did not return calls seeking comment.
A Reuters spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased that the court has vindicated Reuters’ right to publish truthful news in the public interest. Our story was fair and accurate and shed light on an important issue about which the public had a right to know.”
The 40-page decision by a three-judge panel detailed the steps Reuters reporters took in reporting that Universal had made $40 million in payments to Rodolfo Soriano, a close associate of the former head of the Philippine gaming authority; that the Nevada gambling regulator was investigating the company; and that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had investigated two former Universal employees.
The assertions in the Reuters articles “can be accepted as true,” the court said.
The court also deemed the articles were in the public interest, given the scale of Universal’s business and attention in Japan to moves to legalise casinos in the country.
$1 = 122.2900 yen