TOKYO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - A civil lawsuit between WynnResorts Ltd and Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada hasbeen put on hold for another six months to allow U.S.prosecutors to continue investigating Okada and his companiesfor possible bribery in the Philippines.
Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez granted arequest made by federal prosecutors to extend the stay ondiscovery in the civil proceedings so as not to interfere withthe ongoing criminal probe, according to lawyers present at thehearing on Thursday.
The Justice Department had requested an extension earlierthis week, presenting new evidence to the court under seal whichthey argued warranted further investigation.
The ruling marked a reversal of stance for Gonzales, who hadtold lawyers when the first six-month stay was granted in Maythat she would not approve an extension. Gonzales cited concernsfor the safety of witnesses cooperating with the probe in makingher decision, according to media reports.
For nearly two years, Okada has been locked in a legalbattle with Wynn Resorts Chief Executive Steve Wynn, duringwhich the former business partners have exchanged allegations ofillegal conduct.
Wynn forcibly redeemed Okada's 20 percent stake in the U.S.casino operator last year at a steep discount, alleging Okadahad made improper payments to Philippine government officials toadvance his planned $2 billion casino project there.
Okada, who founded and controls Japanese pachinko gamingmachine maker Universal Entertainment Corp, has deniedany wrongdoing and filed a counterclaim to nullify the shareredemption.
Eric Andrus, a spokesman for the Japanese company at RLMFinsbury, declined to comment on the court ruling.
A Wynn Resorts spokesman declined to comment.
U.S. federal prosecutors have been investigating Okada andhis companies for potential violations of anti-bribery laws inrelation to his casino development on Manila Bay.
The Philippine government has also been investigating $40million in payments made by Universal affiliates to apolitically-connected consultant in 2010 around the timeUniversal was lobbying for concessions for its casino resort.
Universal has filed a defamation suit against Reuters inTokyo for its reporting on the $40 million in payments.
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