Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has reached a financial settlement with the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) over unpaid tax obligations.
On Monday, local media announced that the CNMI government had reached a deal in which IPI had agreed to pay just under $18.2m in outstanding business gross revenue tax (BGRT). IPI has reportedly already transferred $10m of this sum to the government and promised to pay the rest “by the end of March.”
The government had been pressing IPI on the tax issue after opposition politicians learned last summer that IPI had paid only $41k in BGRT in fiscal 2019, down from $43.6m the previous year. The government said IPI owed $30m in outstanding BGRT but IPI claimed to be owed unspecified “credits” based on the company’s belief that it had overpaid its BGRT in previous years.
IPI’s gaming license is unique in the casino world as the company isn’t required to pay tax on its gambling revenue. In addition to BGRT, IPI is required to pay an annual license fee as well as making contributions to the community chest fund, although opposition politicians say IPI is currently $37m in arrears to this fund.
The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) has been less than impressed with IPI in recent years and has offered its support for pending legislation to grant the regulatory body greater enforcement powers. Among other aspects, House Bill 21-11 would extend the statute of limitations in which the CCC can investigate IPI for past transgressions to 36 months from its current six-month limit.
IPI is presently the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into alleged wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy regarding political contributions to CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres, who last week issued a public statement denying having been “paid off” by IPI in exchange for political favors.