Kazuo Okada Arrested Upon Arriving Back in the Philippines

  • Kazuo Okada is a Japanese billionaire who operates the Okada Manila resort
  • Okada is facing charges of “grave coercion” related to a hostile takeover
  • Okada Manila has been subject to constant takeovers and attempted coups
  • The resort’s parent company have vowed to bring Okada to justice
Okada Manila
Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada was arrested upon arriving in the Philippines and is currently out on bail. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Ignoring the warning signs

Japanese tycoon and owner of the Okada Manila resort hotel Kazuo Okada was arrested upon entering the Philippines Monday. 

“I insisted on coming back to the Philippines despite several warnings from my lawyers that I may be detained by the authorities,” Okada said after posting bail. 

facing charges of grave coercion related to the hostile takeover of Okada Manila

The 80-year-old billionaire is facing charges of grave coercion related to the hostile takeover of Okada Manila earlier this year. He ran the resort until he was kicked out in 2017 for allegedly misappropriating over $20m in funds, and his return has led to several attacks from his opponents.

Okada arrested in the Philippines

Okada was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group after arriving from Haneda, Japan. He was able to post bail shortly after and eventually released a statement on Tuesday.

“I will not bow down to intimidation, and I will not back off from this legal battle,” Okada said. “This fight isn’t over. I want to show to the Filipino people and the world that I am not afraid.”

The current legal issues stem from the power struggle for Okada Manila, worth an estimated $3bn. Okada had been barred from operating the casino until the Philippine Supreme Court issued a “status quo ante order (SQAQ)” in April that restored his positions as a shareholder, director, CEO, and chairman.

an SQAQ did not authorize Okada to appoint new board members

With the help of allies Antonio Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta, Okada’s team was able to re-stake its claim as the Okada Manila authority. However, the flip-flopping continued when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) kicked out Okada’s business partners last September. PAGCOR referenced a ruling from the Department of Justice, which said that an SQAQ did not authorize Okada to appoint new board members. 

Then, in May, Okada’s associates returned and kicked out the existing board members, only for PAGCOR to once again remove them and replace them with the previous board, backed by the casino’s parent group Tiger Resorts Asia.

Tug-of-war

The situation at the Okada Manila has teetered well past “messy” into “disastrous” lately. In September, PAGCOR staged a coup with the help of 50 disguised members of the previous board and national police disguised as casino workers.

The back-and-forth has delayed the casino’s plans to list on NASDAQ via a partnership with 26 Capital Acquisition. The partnership was meant to coincide with the return of travel and tourism amid recovery from the worldwide pandemic, but the power struggle has turned off foreign investors. 

The Philippines also recently announced that China was blacklisting travel to the country because of disputes over offshore gambling operators, although China denied these comments.

Okada is due to appear in court for an arraignment in his case next week, according to his opponents. 

“We will continue to work with the law enforcement units to bring Kazuo Okada to justice, as we have done in the past in other jurisdictions,” said Tiger Resort Asia’s director and representative to Okada Manila, Kenshi Asano, in a statement.

A representative of Okada confirmed the arraignment but did not provide a date. The Philippine Justice Department has already dismissed cases against Okada and his team for kidnapping and assault, among other charges.