JAPAN, HONG KONG AND US AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE PAYMENTS MADE BY JAPANESE CASINO DEVELOPER UNIVERSAL ENTERTAINMENT TO AN ASSOCIATE OF THE PHILIPPINES GAMBLING REGULATOR

Japanese slot machine maker and casino developer Universal Entertainment ("Universal") is under investigation regarding payments totalling $40m made to an associate of the Philippines' gambling regulator in 2010.  The Japanese tax authorities, Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption and the FBI are all investigating separately.  This follows several previous updates relating to allegations of corruption in relation to Universal and its founder and controlling investor, Kazuo Okada.

The FBI has been investigating the payments made from the bank account of Universal's US-based subsidiary Azure USA to an associate of the then-head of the Philippines gaming regulator. Universal was seeking tax and other concessions in respect of a casino under construction in Manila during the time the payments were being made. On Wednesday 18 March 2015, Universal announced that Azure USA had received a subpoena from a grand jury in the US in relation to suspected bribery.

The Japanese tax authorities have commenced an audit of the company's accounting, and attended its Tokyo premises during March 2015. At present it is not clear if the review of the accounts has developed from an audit into a more formal investigation with the possibility of criminal charges.

The Hong Kong authorities are conducting a criminal investigation in parallel, having become involved because the transfers under review passed through Hong Kong bank accounts.

Previously, the National Bureau of Investigation in the Philippines investigated the payments as potential bribery but suspended the inquiry because it did not have access to witnesses in Japan. 

NGK AND DENSO CORP FINED IN SOUTH KOREA AS GLOBAL CRACKDOWN ON PRICE MANIPULATION IN THE AUTOMOTIVE PARTS INDUSTRY CONTINUES  

Following our previous updates on the US Department of Justice's ("DOJ") investigation into anti-competitive practices in the automotive parts industry, fines have now been imposed by the South Korean Fair Trade Commission on five Japanese and South Korean manufacturers of auto parts.

The five companies, including Japanese corporations NGK Spark Plugs and Denso Corp and their South Korean subsidiaries, have been fined a total of 3.5 billion Korean won (US$3.2 million) for fixing prices and rigging bids for engine parts. The South Korean Fair Trade Commission said that the five firms colluded on bid prices and winners for parts tenders made by South Korea's biggest automobile manufacturers, Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation, in 2008 and 2011.