Okada’s Universal Entertainment calls Philippines payment unnecessary

Universal Entertainment Corp., the Tokyo-based company controlled by gaming magnate Kazuo Okada, called a $25 million payment at the center of an FBI investigation into possible bribery in the Philippines “unnecessary.”

Universal had booked the $25 million payment to Subic Leisure as an expense to resolve a land rights dispute surrounding its $2 billion resort project on Manila Bay.

But Universal officials said Monday that “the land problem could be legally resolved prior to signing a consulting contract with Subic Leisure.”

In its annual earnings report, Universal said an independent internal investigation had determined that the payment to Subic Leisure should not have been made.

The disclosure comes as the FBI and gaming regulators in Nevada and the Philippines are investigating allegations of improper payments made by Universal to win concessions to build its Manila casino .

Okada remains involved in a dispute with former business partner Steve Wynn, who forcibly redeemed Okada’s 19.66 percent ownership stake in Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. after an investigation conducted for the company determined that Okada had engaged in improper activities while developing the Manila casino that violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The federal law bars improper payments from businesses or individuals to foreign officials for a business advantage.

Universal reported a net profit of $268.1 million for the fiscal year that ended March 31, down 12.5 percent from last year.

Universal established the independent investigative committee, which has yet to release its findings, in January to investigate its business in the Philippines .

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@ or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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