THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has resolved to indict Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, Antonio O. Cojuangco, and other members of their camp for grave coercion over the alleged “forceful takeover” of casino-resort Okada Manila.
In a 25-page resolution dated Aug. 25 and marked as received by the DoJ prosecution staff on Oct. 3, the agency also dismissed for lack of evidence complaints for slight physical injuries, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, unjust vexation and direct assault charges against Mr. Okada’s camp.
“Ineluctably, respondents Kazuo, Cojuangco, Espeleta are deemed to have taken the law into their hands,” said the DoJ. Dindo A. Espeleta is an adviser to Mr. Okada’s camp.
It added that despite their claim to a status quo ante order (SQAO) issued by the Supreme Court, it does not absolve them from criminal liability for the controversial takeover of the casino resort.
The legal counsel for Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment, Inc. (TRLEI) earlier filed criminal complaints before the Justice department in relation to the alleged “brutal, forceful, and anomalous takeover” of Okada Manila on May 31. TRLEI is the company that operates Okada Manila.
In July, the camp of Mr. Okada issued a statement citing a Philippine Supreme Court ruling ordering an SQAO, identifying him as the lone representative of Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. (TRAL), TRLEI’s parent company, which is registered in Hong Kong.
“They precipitously went ahead of their unlawful plan to take control and possession of Okada Manila in the guise of implementing the SQAO, which contains no specifications on what respondents can only do by virtue thereof,” the DoJ added.
The High Court upheld the SQAO order in August, which reinstated Mr. Okada as chairman of Okada Manila.
Under the Revised Penal Code, an act is considered grave coercion if a person is prevented by another from doing something not prohibited by law against his will not be, and if the prevention is caused by violence, threats or intimidation.
Mr. Okada was removed from TRLEI as a shareholder, director and company chairman in 2017 for alleged mismanagement. He temporarily serves as a board member of the firm after the High Court affirmed the SQAO.
The DoJ said that the takeover would not have happened were it not for the instructions of respondents, who were present at Okada Manila.
It noted that despite Mr. Okada not being physically present during the incident, he is still equally liable for grave coercion due to his prior knowledge of the incident.
Raoul U. Sontillano, who lawyers for Mr. Okada’s camp, did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.
Last month, the Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. that ordered Messrs. Okada and Cojuangco to stop disbursing Okada Manila’s funds.
The office of the city prosecutors of Makati and Parañaque earlier dismissed falsification of public documents and other deceit charges against Mr. Okada’s group.
“We are grateful that the [DoJ] has started the ball rolling in advancing justice for the victims of the brutal takeover in May,” said Hans Var Der Sande, TRLEI chief financial officer and board member, in a separate statement on Monday.
“We will continue to work with our lawyers and exhaust all legal means to win this case against the Kazuo Group.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez