The Court of Appeals (CA) has thrown out a lower court ruling which had found merit to put to trial for estafa the Japanese pachinko king, Kazuo Okada, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Okada Manila.
In a decision dated Dec. 9, 2021 but obtained only recently, the CA also quashed a Paranaque Regional Trial Court order of arrest against Okada based on complaints by Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI), the Philippine firm that owns and operates Okada Manila.
In June 2017, the TRLEI board had removed Okada from his post and unseated him from the board along with TRLEI President and Chief Operating Officer Takahiro Usui.
Subsequently, the board accused Okada of misappropriating TRLEI funds and went to court to compel him to return for the money.
Nearly three years ago in May 2019, Paranaque Regional Trial Court branch 257 judge Rolando How ruled against Okada finding probable cause to prosecute him for estafa for alleged unauthorized disbursement of $3.1 million in TRLEI funds.
Consequently, the lower court also issued warrants of arrest for the Japanese businessman. Usui was also ordered arrested.Aggrieved, Okada and Usui challenged the trial court decision before the appellate court.
In its December 2021 decision, the CA said the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing warrants of arrest against Okada and his associate despite the absence of probable cause.
“There was lack of probable cause to issue warrants of arrest because not all the elements of the crime of estafa was proved,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Alfredo D. Ampuan said.
In particular, the CA said Okada did not receive the money – in the form of consultancy fees and salary – in trust with the duty to return them to TRLEI.
“There was no misappropriation or conversion by Mr. Okada of the money received,” the decision concurred by two other associate justices Pedro Corales and Bonifacio Pascua added.
The CA explained that the amount paid to Okada was not entrusted to him for safekeeping or administration. Rather, it was paid to him by TRLEI in consideration for services rendered as consultant and CEO, it further said.
Accordingly, the CA ruled that the criminal cases against Mr. Okada and Usui are dismissed and the warrants for their arrest recalled and quashed.