Japan's Universal Entertainment loses defamation appeal against Reuters

November 17, 2016 11:16 AM EST

Kazuo Okada, (R) chairman of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. and Governor Luis Chavit Singson take part in the press launch of 65th annual Miss Universe competition on January 30, 2017 to be held in the Philippines, during a news conference i


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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Universal Entertainment Corp <6425.T> lost an appeal on Thursday in its defamation suit against Reuters, as a court upheld a lower court's ruling that the news agency did not imply that the pachinko-machine maker and casino operator had committed bribery.

The Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling that there was no merit to Universal's claims against the Japanese unit of Thomson Reuters Corp (NYSE: TRI) and three Reuters journalists.

Universal had sued Reuters in December 2012, demanding 200 million yen ($1.8 million) and apologies, for stories relating to $40 million in payments Universal made to a consultant in relation to a casino project in the Philippines.

Last year the Tokyo District Court rejected Universal's claims, saying the articles were accurate.

"We are pleased that the appellate court affirmed the accuracy and fairness of Reuters’ reporting," a company spokeswoman said.

Universal did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the high court decision or whether it would appeal to Japan's Supreme Court.

Universal, controlled by billionaire Kazuo Okada, had appealed the district court's decision, saying the Reuters stories were structured to give the impression that Universal had engaged in illegal payments, including bribery, to the Philippine gambling authorities.

But the high court rejected the claims, saying Reuters did not use any words that implied bribery, that the articles did not mention illegal payments and that the repetition of key facts in the stories were meant to explain details.

"The claims made in this case by the appellant are groundless and the rejection by the district court was justifiable," high court judge Yoshihiro Toyosawa wrote in a 16-page decision for a three-judge panel, affirming the trial court's decision.

The Reuters articles were about Universal's payments to Rodolfo Soriano, a close associate of the former head of the Philippine gaming authority, and an investigation by the Nevada gambling regulator of the payments.

(Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by William Mallard, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Keith Weir)



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