Imperial Pacific International, Saipan’s casino operator is under serious federal investigation for alleged money laundering, wire fraud and illegal campaign contributions to Governor Ralph Torres.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted multiple raids on Saipan. The target areas were; IPI offices, IPI lobbyist office, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Governor Torres’ home and office, a law firm owned by Torres’ brothers as well as a real estate firm.
According to the local media, IPI attorneys filed a motion that aimed to maintain the probe as a civil suit which will push for some actions to be taken and not imprisonment of the wrongdoers.
IPI is concerned that the feds’ criminal probe may push executives to exercise the fifth amendment right which will discount the self-incrimination of IPI heads. This would further complicate things and make it harder for the company to get adequate defense in a civil suit.
The IPI attorneys’ copy of the FBI search warrant showed what the agents were looking for. According to CalvinAyre.com, it appears that the FBI agents were searching for documents related to the alleged wire fraud, foreign donations to political figures, conspiracy and money laundering.
The warrants also featured the names of individuals who include; Torres, his brothers and relatives, realtor Ron Li Anderson and IPI’s consultant Alfred Yue.
Other documents that the FBI agents wanted to inspect were documents of real estate purchases, vehicles, and other luxurious goods that the IPI had received on behalf of the governor.
The records custodian of IPI has received a subpoena to demand documents showing purchase agreements or land lease that the IPI had financed or was involved with. This document is expected to indicate any transfer of funds to Gov. Torres (even commission and fees) and dates back to September 2013.
Last year, Bloomberg reported that the IPI had paid millions of dollars to the Torres’ family. The payment included land deals that overvalued some of the properties. However, the IPI and Torres discredited the allegations which they claimed was politically motivated.
As part of the probe, FBI agents and agents from the Office of the Public Auditor descended on the Commonwealth Casino Commission. The executive director, Edward Deleon Guerrero shared that there were no search warrants for his office. Although the visit by the feds has not been disclosed Guerrero said it was just a case of a consultation.
Rep. Tina Sablan urged fellow CNMI legislatures to launch a political inquiry on the case and was keen to show Saipan residents that the rule of law did work.
Following last week’s raids, Gov. Torres and the IPI expressed that they will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigations.
The governor’s office on Thursday also issued a statement which stated that the warrant would be proved unfounded. The statement continued to explain how the process had been hard for the Torres family and so in the statement, the Governor asked for the public’s patience and cooperation as the investigation continues.