Illegal funding reports insufficiently investigated: Aruze

LOS ANGELES Tue Nov 20, 2012 5:24am IST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Aruze USA, the U.S. unit of Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp 6425.OS, on Monday said a November 16 Thomson Reuters exclusive report and other media reports into alleged illegal funding by the company related to its Philippines operations were not "based on sufficient investigation."

The Reuters story said U.S. gaming regulators are investigating millions of dollars paid by affiliates of Universal to a former consultant of the Philippine gaming authority around the time the company was lobbying to win concessions for a $2 billion Manila casino.

"Our story was accurate and fair and we stand by it and our reporting," said Thomson Reuters spokeswoman Barb Burg.

The revelation of the contested payments was the latest twist in a bigger falling out between Okada, who made his fortune making pachinko machines, and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts. In February, Wynn forcibly redeemed Okada's shares in the company at a steep discount.

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts (WYNN.O) declined to comment.

Also on Monday, a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino said prosecutors in Manila will investigate whether bribes were paid in relation to the $2 billion Manila Bay casino being developed by Okada.

In its statement, Aruze on Monday said that in August it had filed with the Tokyo district Court a damage lawsuit against Mitsuo Hida, former president or Aruze USA's Japanese branch, in connection with economic damage it said was caused by Hida's embezzlement.

The company added it plans to file criminal charges against Hida.

Hida could not be immediately reached for comment. His Tokyo-based lawyer was also not immediately available.

"During the course of this lawsuit case, we believe that nature and purpose of his embezzlement will be accounted for," it said in its statement.

The Reuters report also cites the Hida lawsuit, and his rebuttal in which he says he was operating under Okada.

(Reporting By Susan Zeidler; Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki in Tokyo; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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