The offices of Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) have been raided (again) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On Thursday, local media reported that agents from the FBI had executed search warrants on IPI’s finance and human resource offices, as well as the office of consultant Alfred Yue, a registered IPI lobbyist.
The FBI raided several other offices, including that of Ralph Torres, Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The CNMI is part of the United States and thus falls under the FBI’s area of influence.
The FBI also reportedly searched Torres’ home and vehicle, as well as the offices of a law firm run by Torres’ brothers. FBI Honolulu Media Coordinator Jason White told KUAM News that the FBI “did have to beef up our presence” in Saipan to execute all the warrants simultaneously.
IPI issued a statement assuring CNMI residents that “we continue to be law abiding and good corporate citizens.” IPI pledged to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, insisting that it had “nothing to hide.”
Similarly, the governor’s office issued a statement saying it was sure there was “no reason for concern.” Torres issued a personal statement saying he had the “highest respect” for law enforcement and would provide “the fullest measure of cooperation to any of [the FBI’s] requests of me and of my staff.”
The FBI and IPI have a long and colorful history. In March 2017, the FBI raided IPI’s offices, later revealing that the probe was sparked by “allegations of a federal violation of the workplace visa system,” aka hiring illegal construction workers from China to complete IPI’s long-delayed Imperial Palace Resort.
The FBI reportedly came back for more in March 2018, making vague references about “public corruption” being a “top criminal investigative priority.” Those raids came shortly after Bloomberg reported that IPI had made “millions of dollars in payments to family members” of Gov. Torres, leading other CNMI politicians to claim that IPI “runs this government.”
Despite legislation that doesn’t require IPI to pay taxes on its gaming revenue, IPI has struggled financially for several years now, including a net loss of $240m in the first half of 2019. IPI has also been accused of failing to pay what little taxes the CNMI government does require it to pay.