Casinos and Gaming

Japan's Universal Sues Reuters Over Philippine Payments Reports

Mark Duncan

Japan's Universal Entertainment on Tuesday sued Thomson Reuters and three of itsjournalists for defamation over news articles relating tomillions of dollars in payments Universal made to anex-consultant to the Philippine gaming authority.

Universal, majority owned by Japanese billionaireKazuo Okada and his son through a family trust, said in astatement it had filed the lawsuit with a court in Tokyo.

The Reuters stories, published on Nov. 16 and Nov. 30,detailed a series of payments made to Rodolfo Soriano, a closeassociate of the former head of the gaming authority, betweenJanuary and May of 2010 when Universal was lobbying forconcessions for a casino resort on Manila Bay.

The Nov. 30 story said Universal channelled at least $30million to companies controlled by Soriano, citing companyrecords and people with knowledge of the transactions andrelated investigations.

"We have not seen the lawsuit but we stand by ourreporting," said Reuters spokeswoman Barb Burg.

Soriano is now at the centre of an investigation by thePhilippine Department of Justice. The payments are also being probed by the Nevada GamingControl Board, the regulator for Universal's businesses in theUnited States.

Universal said in an earlier statement that its compliancecommittee had already reported on its business in thePhilippines to Nevada gaming authorities and that it was"certain that the facts of this case will be brought to light inthe near future".

Universal has filed lawsuits against three former employeesof the Universal group for $15 million of the payments, claimingthey made the transfers without proper authorisation.

The company said it was seeking 200 million yen ($2.43million) in damages from Thomson Reuters and three of itsjournalists. It said it would seek 100 million yen for Universaland the remainder for Okada Holdings, the Okada family trust.