Imperial Pacific finally pays license fee, loses tax court fight


imperial-pacific-casino-pays-license-feeStruggling Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has made good on its unpaid license fees while failing in its bid to prevent other, potentially far more embarrassing financial info from being made public.

On Tuesday, David Atalig, finance secretary of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), confirmed to the Marianas Variety that IPI had paid the outstanding $10.5m of its $15.5m annual license fee to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC).

On August 12, IPI made a partial payment of $5m to the CCC, without explaining why payment wasn’t being made in full or when the outstanding balance would be forthcoming. CCC director Edward Deleon Guerrero filed a complaint giving IPI 15 days in which to pay up or face fines of $50k for every day the bill went unpaid.

Tuesday was the final day that IPI had to remit its payment in full and CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had begun publicly musing about what coercive efforts might be applied if IPI failed to live up to its obligations. On Tuesday, Atalig noted that the CCC could yet impose a penalty on IPI for the still unexplained delay. The CCC is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss what, if any, disciplinary action would be appropriate.

IPI’s dodgy finances are hardly a state secret, as the company issued a warning earlier this month that it expects to record a net loss when it issues its H1 financial report on August 31. This is the third profit warning the company has issued in the last 18 months.

IPI got more bad news Tuesday when the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied IPI’s appeal of a US District Court ruling that allows the CCC to disclose IPI’s income tax filings. The tax records were sought by CNMI Rep. Edwin Propst, who has long sought to impose a standard gaming revenue tax on IPI rather than the simple business gross revenue tax (BGRT) the company currently pays (and even paying its full BGRT tab has lately proven difficult).

On Tuesday, Propst celebrated the Ninth Circuit victory, saying “there can no longer be any delays” in fulfilling his request for IPI’s data, which apparently contains details on unpaid millions of dollars in corporate income tax. The irony here is high, given that the data in question has already been posted publicly by other CNMI legislators.

CNMI government bigwigs, including some CCC directors, have previously been forced to deny reports that they’d received illicit payments from IPI-affiliated companies and individuals. In arguing for the release of IPI’s tax info, the CCC’s Guerrero testified in Superior Court that the regulator wanted to prove that it was not “in bed” with IPI.