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Imperial Pacific International (IPI), the Saipan casino operator has lost its top lawyer just when it really needs him.

The Saipan Tribune reported on Tuesday, that after Friday, December 13, IPI’s general counsel Philip Tydingco will no longer work at the company. Tydingco had joined IPI in August 2017 after working for some time as Guam’s deputy attorney general. He has not publicly commented on the reason for his departure yet.

Tyndingco’s departure comes just weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it was probing IPI and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres for likely wire fraud, money laundering and unlawful campaign contributions. That news followed FBI raids on a number of locations on Saipan, including offices which belonged to both IPI and Torres.

Before leaving, Tyndingco was able to convince US District Court Judge Ramona Manglona to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Pacific Rim Land Development, a contractor which accused IPI of not paying $5.65m owed for work Pacific Rim did on IPI’s incomplete Imperial Palace Resort. Also, Pacific Rim asked the court to put a mechanic’s lien on the property to force IPI to pay up.

Through Tyndingco, IPI claimed that Pacific Rim’s lien request was made long after the 60-day window for filing such requests and so was “time-barred.” Judge Manglona approved IPI’s motion to dismiss; however, gave Pacific Rim the opportunity to amend its complaint and has fixed a hearing for December 10 to consider the amended application.

IPI IN DEBTS AGAIN?

In the meantime, IPI has once again found itself being criticized for money it owes the CNMI government which the company either can’t or won’t pay.

As informed by Calvinayre.com, in October, Ralph Yumul, CNMI House Gaming Committee chair Rep. asked the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) if IPI had made its annual $20m contribution to the Community Benefit Fund, as required under the terms of the special gaming license IPI was issued by the CCC.

CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero responded last week by saying the CCC could not respond due to an ongoing investigation of the matter. Guerrero told Yumul that the CCC would update him when it had completed its investigation.

This is not the first time that IPI has been blamed for failing to honor its financial obligations to the government. In August, IPI tardily made good on its annual license fee payment to the CCC after making just partial payments much after the specified date for delivery.

Local politicians complained in June, that IPI’s Business Gross Revenue Tax payments had declined from $67.7m in fiscal 2017 to just $41k in the first nine months of the CNMI’s fiscal year. Subsequently IPI execs claimed to be owed ‘credits’ for overpaying its BGRT in earlier years.

Local media reported Last week, that CCC commissioners were a bit annoyed as IPI CEO Mark Brown did not attend the CCC’s monthly meeting. Juan Sablan, CCC chair, said it was “very important” for either Brown or IPI’s CFO to be present, noting that “we only do this once a month” and thinking aloud if the CCC “need to subpoena” Brown to guarantee his presence.

IPI’s MYSTERY SHOPPER EXPOSED

IPI’s controlling shareholder Cui Li Jie announced late last month, that she was selling a 4.9% stake in the company to a firm identified just by its Chinese characters. Later IPI disclosed that the company’s English name is Brave Access Investments Ltd.

A company with that name has a website which identifies itself as Jinying Investment Co Ltd, which has its headquarters in New York and offices in Hong Kong and New Zealand. The company’s stated goal is looking for “investment opportunities arising from the transformation and upgrading of the global economy.”

Brave Access/Jinying confirmed the IPI investment on November 21, referring to the casino company by its holding company name BOHUA. It would “start strategic cooperation with Bohua Pacific in the coming year, and continue to increase its holdings of Bohua Pacific Division shares,” added Brave Access.

Brave Access and IPI seem to have a history which precedes the share deal, as the Brave Access site includes a photo page offering its congratulations on the ground-breaking of the Imperial Casha, IPI’s second Saipan property, dating back to July.

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