26 people face cases over Entertainment City project

TWENTY-SIX people including nine Japanese nationals are facing cases in relation to the use of dummy companies for the gambling operations of Okada-led Universal Entertainment Corp. in the Entertainment City in Parañaque City.

Of the 26, 17 are Filipinos (some of whom are lawyers) while 10 "juridical entities" are also accused of violating the Philippine Anti-Dummy Law in relation to the Article XII of the Constitution, and provisions of the Public Land Act and the Foreign Investments Act.

"Hence at this time, only the charges for violations of the Philippine Dummy Act may be referred to the National Prosecution for the conduct of preliminary investigation," the Department of Justice said Monday.

Among those charged were Kazuo Okada (president of Universal Entertainment Corp.), Hajime Tokuda (president of Tiger Resort), Manabu Kawasaki (treasurer of Tiger Resort) Masato Araki (director of Eagle I and Eagle II), Koki Seki (director of Eagle II and Tiger Resort), Eagle II HOLDCO., Inc., Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc., Aruze USA, Inc., Future Fortune Ltd., Lex Development Corp., Ultralex Holdings Corp., Platinum Gaming and Entertainment Corp., Imelda Manguiat (Tiger Resort) and Rodolfo Soriano Jr. (director of Eagle I and II).

Aruze, which is an affiliate of Universal Entertainment, skirted the 40-percent foreign ownership cap in businesses and lands in the Philippines after tapping the services of Sycip Salazar, Hernandez and Gatmaitan (SSHG) law office, which incorporated Eagle I and II and Tiger Resort under Philippine laws in May and June 2008.

"However, facts and evidence gathered indicate that these entities along with several other juridical entities and through the acts of various individuals, were actually dummies or fronts of Universal, meant to circumvent or evade laws of nationalization of certain rights and privileges," the DOJ said.

Eagle I was created to acquire lands for the casino hotel, Eagle II to manage the investment or financing aspect and Tiger to operate the casino and hotel.

Reports said Universal Entertainment had paid $40 million to Soriano, a former consultant of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), in 2010 allegedly to secure a license to operate a casino in the project initiated by the agency.

"However, while the panel succeeded in gathering sufficient evidence to verify the fact of payment, which was made through various and successive wire transfers from Universal or its affiliates which can eventually be traced to Soriano, there has yet be gathered sufficient evidence regarding the purpose for such payment, mainly due to the reluctance of potential witnesses to testify," the statement read.

Soriano was allegedly an associate of former Pagcor head Efraim Genuino, who is facing cases for alleged involvement in graft-ridden transactions and misuse of funds under his nine-year term (2001 to 2010).

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the probe upon the request of Pagcor Chairman Cristino Naguiat in November last year. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
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