Saipan Casino Imperial Palace Reportedly Raided by US Agents
Posted on: March 15, 2018, 03:00h.
Last updated on: March 15, 2018, 11:14h.
Saipan casino Imperial Palace has been making headlines for the all the wrong reasons, and that continued this week after news broke that US federal agents recently raided offices of the resort’s parent company.
Bloomberg reporter Matthew Campbell has been at the forefront of the Saipan casino scandal. In a new article, he says local offices of Imperial Pacific International Holdings were raided last week, and investigators were seen leaving with a bounty of documents.
Imperial Pacific, a Chinese company based on Hong Kong, told Campbell it had “not heard” of any such activity at its Saipan offices. Federal authorities also didn’t confirm the reports, though did say “public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority.”
“Elected or appointed officials are entrusted and expected to protect the interests of the people with integrity. When that trust is betrayed, the security and stability of our government is put at risk. Anyone with information about a potential violation of federal law is asked to contact the FBI,” the agency said.
Saipan is one of the United States’ most remote territories. It sits in the Pacific Ocean’s Northern Mariana Islands with Guam, and is roughly 1,400 miles east of the Philippines.
In 2014, Imperial Pacific International Holdings was awarded a 25-year gaming license by Saipan despite having no experience operating a casino. The company agreed to pay a $15 million annual license fee to the island’s government.
Campbell believes Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph Torres and his extended family is most benefitting from the casino. The Bloomberg journalist says this week, “It (Imperial Pacific) has made millions of dollars in payments to Governor Ralph Torres’s extended family, including long-term land lease transactions and hiring his brothers’ law firm for its Saipan legal affairs.”
Torres has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, Imperial Pacific revealed it was contemplating a lawsuit against Bloomberg.
Big Money, Big Lies?
Imperial Pacific has been accused of importing and harboring illegal aliens during construction of the $550 million casino.
When a worker died in March 2017 after falling from scaffolding, US authorities began investigating the project site and found unsafe working conditions and widespread visa violations. Investigators also determined that many workers were severely underpaid, and earlier this month, the US Labor Department ordered Imperial Pacific contractors to award $13.9 million in back wages and damages.
The money being bet inside the resort’s temporary casino is also attracting plenty of scrutiny. Known as Best Sunshine Live, the gaming floor says it’s taking in around $2-4 billion in bets each month.
That’s a staggering statistic, and is far higher than what five-star integrated casino resorts generate in Macau, the world’s richest gambling hub. Imperial Pacific says it’s complying with all federal and local anti-money laundering regulations.
Saipan welcomes around 500,000 tourists each year. In 2017, 32.6 million visitors arrived in Macau.