Following the crackdown of the Imperial Pacific International (IPI) local casino, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been conducting a series of raids on gambling regulators in Saipan. According to CalvinAyre.com these regulators are the latest individuals to be subjected to questioning on the island.
FBI agents raided a number of locations in Saipan last week. Some of these locations included IPI offices as well as those belonging to the local casino’s registered lobbyists.
The agents also paid Ralph Torres a visit. Torres is the governor of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). His brothers run a law firm which was also one of the key areas that the FBI agents targeted. However, the agents did not disclose their reason for visiting the premises.
On Tuesday, the FBI agents had visited the offices of the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) which is an overseer of all CNMI’s gaming operations. For this visit, the FBI was accompanied by agents from the Office of Public Auditor (OPA). The OPA is well known for its role in monitoring how government agencies use public funds.
The executive director of CCC, Edward Deleon Guerrero shared with the Tribune that the board was in a meeting with both the FBI and OPA agents. Guerrero said the meeting had nothing to do with the CCC while leaving out specifics.
Guerrero continued to say that the FBI agents had no search warrants to search the CCC offices because the agents were on a consultation mission. Given CCC’s role in policing casino activities, the FBI had to pay them a visit for consultation purposes. To put in his words, the meeting entailed a policeman of one industry consulting with a policeman from another industry.
The recent raid marked the third raid that the FBI has conducted on IPI facilities. The previous raid was in March 2018 where the agents visited on allegations that IPI had paid millions of dollars to the family members of Governor Ralph Torres.
Although Torres announced about his full cooperation, fellow government officials called the whole event shameful. Saipan Rep. Gregorio Kilili said that it was sad and embarrassing for Northern Marianas people to have their governor under FBI scrutiny.
Local legislative Rep. Tina Sablan also held the same views as Gregorio and said that the governor’s involvement though sad was not surprising at all. The rep determined that the governor’s relationship with IPI was what undermined public trust and democracy in general.
Apart from the Thursday raids, the IPI is facing yet another public criticism due to its labor practices. According to local media, IPI was dismissing laborers from Taiwan and Thailand ahead of their H-2B temporary work visas scheduled to expire in January 2020.
Some of these laborers shared with the Guam Post that they were being released to make way for Mongolian laborers who will do the same work for half the hourly wage.
In the first part of this year, IPI has reportedly faced a net loss of $240m and is now on the wrong side of the law following their aim to breach the US labor laws.