Casino bribe probe in NBI, DOJ hands

Posted at 12/10/2012 11:15 PM | Updated as of 12/10/2012 11:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman Cristino Naguiat, Jr. on Monday said it is up to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate reports on alleged bribes paid by a gaming firm to the state agency.

Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp. is accused of paying off a former consultant of state-owned PAGCOR.

In a report by international news agency Reuters on November 16, it said US gaming regulators were investigating millions of dollars paid by affiliates of Universal to then PAGCOR consultant Rodolfo Soriano while Okada's company was lobbying with the Philippine government to win concessions for the casino it is building on Manila Bay.

Soriano was described as the alleged "bagman" of Efraim Genuino, who was PAGCOR chairman at the time.

A Universal subsidiary allegedly made a $5-million payment in May 2010 to Soriano, according to a Reuters examination of bank records, corporate filings, court documents and records prepared by Universal's staff.

Naguiat said Okada's group has already sent a letter to PAGCOR denying that they are involved in the alleged bribery.

He quoted the letter as having said that what the company admitted was that there was an illegal disbursement that did not have board approval.

Naguiat has turned over the letter to the DOJ and it is up to the agency to assess its veracity.

He said PAGCOR is cooperating with authorities regarding the probe.

If investigations show that Okada and his company are guilty, they will not be allowed to operate the casino, Naguiat added.

He clarified, however, that PAGCOR only regulates casinos, and not hotels. This allows Okada firm to continue its planned hotel operations.

Naguiat also said the controversy will not affect the operations of Entertainment City. Some hotels in the project will open by March 2013.

He said casinos account for only 7.5% of Entertainment City and the rest are hotels, thematic establishments, etc.