Universal Philippine license in jeopardy

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chief Cristino Naguiat Jr. said the government regulator will revoke Universal Entertainment Corp.’s gaming license for its planned $2 billion Manila Bay Resorts casino hotel complex if it is found guilty of seeking to circumvent restrictions on foreign ownership of land by using front companies in assembling parcels for the project. The Justice Department last month recommended criminal prosecution of chairman Kazuo Okada and 25 others. Naguiat said Universal’s license could be retendered if it is taken back.

His comments follow an announcement by Universal that it would have its panel of outside experts prepare for the pursuit of fraud and other criminal charges against managers involved in controversial payments of $40 million made in relation to the Manila project. It called the payments “illegal” and said they had bypassed its normal corporate decision making process and “inflicted damage on the company”. Philippine and US investigators have been probing the payments as possible bribes.