CA junks estafa case vs gaming tycoon Okada
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the dismissal of the estafa case against Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada and his associate over the alleged unlawful release of $3 million in corporate funds of the upscale integrated casino resort Okada Manila.
In a 24-page ruling, the appeals court’s 16th Division also voided the arrest warrants issued in 2019 by Judge Rolando How of Parañaque City Regional Trial Court Branch 257 against Okada and Takahiro Usui.
The court granted Okada’s petition for certiorari, which challenged How’s two separate orders that indicted the two Japanese nationals in connection with the criminal complaint filed against them by Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc.
Tiger Resort, the operator of Okada Manila, had accused Okada of illegally collecting about $3 million in salaries and consultancy fees as its chief executive officer, a position he had held for only a month until he was removed by the gaming firm’s board of directors in June 2017.
Contrary to the judge’s conclusion, the appellate court said there was no probable cause to prosecute Okada and Usui for estafa.
It said How failed to “issue an order explaining his finding of probable cause” to indict the pair for supposedly committing a criminal offense.
“We find that the lower court acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the warrants of arrest against [Okada] and Usui despite the clear absence of probable cause against them,” the CA said in its Dec. 9, 2021, ruling, a copy of which was released only last week.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Ampuan and was concurred in by Associate Justices Pedro Corales and Bonifacio Pascua.
As correctly argued by Okada, the CA said the amount that the Japanese gaming executive received was payment for his services as Tiger Resort’s consultant and CEO, and was not intended for “safekeeping or administration” as claimed by the casino operator.
“As such, petitioner became the owner of the subject amount,” the court said. “From this fact alone, it becomes clear that petitioner’s receipt and disposition of the subject amount does not fall within the ambit of estafa.”
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