May 3, 2013 / 7:50 AM / in 5 years

Wynn says lawsuit against Okada halted after judge's ruling

LOS ANGELES, May 3 (Reuters) - Wynn Resorts Ltd said on Thursday its legal battle with Kazuo Okada has been put on hold for six months to allow U.S. prosecutors to pursue a criminal investigation into possible bribery by Okada and his companies in the Philippines.

Wynn said that Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued the ruling granting a request made by federal prosecutors last month seeking a temporary stay on discovery in civil proceedings between Wynn and Okada so as not to disrupt an ongoing criminal probe.

Wynn declined to elaborate further on the court ruling.

Representatives for Okada in the United States and Japan were not immediately available for comment.

For more than a year Okada has been locked in a legal battle with Wynn Resorts Chief Executive Steve Wynn, during which the former business partners have exchanged allegations of illegal conduct.

Okada and his companies are under investigation 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 court filing made last month by U.S. federal prosecutors.

That filing 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.

Okada has denied any wrongdoing in the Philippines and said he was ousted from the Wynn board for opposing Wynn Resorts’ $135 million donation in 2011 to the University of Macau Development Foundation.

Okada has called for an investigation into the donation, noting that it was followed soon after by the granting of land concessions in Macau.

In a footnote in last month’s filing U.S. prosecutors said they were also conducting an investigation into the Macau donation, without elaborating.

Wynn Resorts has said the donation was proper, and in February said it had been informed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board that its investigation into the matter had found Okada’s claims unfounded.

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