DOJ recommends charges vs. Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada, 3 others over takeover bid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the filing of grave coercion charges against Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada and three others over the May 31 takeover of the casino hotel Okada Manila.

In an Aug. 25 resolution shared to the media on Monday, a panel of DOJ prosecutors said it found probable cause to charge Kazuo, his business partners Antonio "Tonyboy" Cojuangco and Dindo Espeleta, as well as lawyer Florentino "Binky" Herrera III.

State prosecutors were acting on separate complaints filed by Hajime Tokuda, Michiaki Satate, and James Lorenzana — officers of Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) which operates Okada Manila.

The DOJ said the three were “forcibly and violently” removed from the premises of Okada Manila by dozens of security personnel upon the instruction of Cojuangco, Espeleta and Herrera who were personally present at the casino hotel during the takeover.

While Kazuo was not around during the incident, the prosecutors found him equally liable for the crime of grave coercion, saying “it appears that the incident happened with his prior knowledge, assent or imprimatur.”

In physically taking over Okada Manila, Kazuo's group used as basis the status quo ante order (SQAO) issued by the Supreme Court. This order directs the parties to observe the status quo before Kazuo was removed as "stockholder, director, chairman, and CEO” of TRLEI in 2017 following accusations of misusing company funds.

However, the DOJ said the accused "went beyond what the SQAO has simply allowed” when they compelled the complainants to leave the premises.

This is because Kazuo’s standing in the company remains unresolved by the high court, the department noted. It added that this means Tokuda, Satate, and Lorenzana are still considered members of the board of directors of TRLEI.

“While it is true that Kazuo Okada has the right to be reinstated, the prompt and expeditious removal by force of the complainants from the premises definitely resulted in coercion,” the decision read.

Other complaints dismissed

Meanwhile, the department said it was constrained to dismiss the complaint against Kazuo's group for slight physical injuries.

While the complainants presented medical reports showing the injuries they suffered due to the takeover, the DOJ said none of them was able to identify the people personally liable for the crime.

State prosecutors also said they did not find sufficient evidence to recommend charges against the accused for kidnapping, serious illegal detention, unjust vexation or direct assault.

CNN Philippines is trying to get a comment from the camp of Kazuo on the DOJ resolution.

Cojuangco, Espeleta, and Herrera earlier filed a consolidated joint counter-affidavit denying all allegations against them. They maintained that the enforcement of the SQAO was done in a lawful and professional manner. Kazuo, who was in Japan, had adopted the counter-affidavit, the DOJ said.