FBI Raids Governor’s Office and Company HQ in the Northern Mariana Islands
November 14th, 2019 3.00pm
The Northern Mariana Islands is an unincorporated and organized U.S. territory and the commonwealth of the United States, consisting of 14 islands and located in the north-western Pacific Ocean. A real tropic paradise, someone might say.
But the recent news reveals there are problems in paradise, as the FBI raided the offices of the islands’ governor last week. The authorities also raided the offices of the Chinese company Imperial Pacific International, which is constructing the new casino facility on Saipan, the commonwealth’s largest island.
Governor Denies Everything
In a press statement, released following these events, Governor Ralph Torres reputed all the claims of financial wrongdoing involving his administration and the Chinese company.
As this is a US territory, it falls under its jurisdiction, and in the last three years, the federal authorities have conducted three raids such as this one, with the previous two also being related to Imperial. However, this is the first time the local government has been targeted.
An official statement from the authorities is yet to be made, so the reason for the raid remains unknown.
In a statement released the very same day the raid took place, Governor Torres reiterated he had sworn to uphold the Constitution and pointed out this administration was fully cooperating with the FBI and its inquiries.
“I will continue to do what I have always done, which is to support the goals and aspirations of the people I serve and to remain worthy of this privilege that has been given to me,” Governor further said.
Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios later confirmed Torres had held a meeting with the FBI agents and explained that they were given unrestricted access to his office.
“We have provided them with all the information and access that they have asked for. We have been completely transparent and helpful with the investigation. This has not slowed down any of our government operations or ongoing initiatives that we have undertaken to improve the economy, and the lives of our people.”
A Long History of Shady Business
Imperial Pacific first made the headlines two years ago when a construction worker died after falling from one of the scaffolding.
A subsequent inquiry discovered unsafe working conditions and also revealed that workers were severely underpaid.
In the end, the US Labour Departments ordered the company to pay nearly £11 million in wages and damages, while charging two of the contractors for smuggling illegal workers.
Bloomberg even posted an article reporting serious financial irregularity between the developer and the local authorities. Both sides have since denied these allegations, while Imperial Pacific went one step further ad filed a lawsuit against the US financial, software, data, and media company.
In one of the articles, Bloomberg reported that FBI agents removed some of the documents during the raid in early 2018, but Imperial Pacific once again refuted these claims.
Imperial Pacific is owned by Cui Lijie and Ji Xiaobo, two rich junket operators from Macau, who back in 2014 received a casino license to operate a casino on Saipan, although the two had no prior experience in operating a casino.
The hotel which is part of the resort has been partially open for business, while the company has since missed several deadlines to finish the project.
“We continue to be law-abiding and good corporate citizens who are proud and privileged to be members of The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).” said the company in a statement.
“We want (to) assure our employees, their families, vendors, patrons, and residents alike that our companies are intent on succeeding and making the CNMI the jewel of the Pacific for our emerging gaming industry.”
Problems in paradise