The FBI executed multiple search warrants Thursday on Saipan, including at the offices of Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres and Imperial Pacific International, Saipan’s casino operator.
Agents were seen at the Office of the Governor, Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, Legend Realty, and other locations around the island as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
FBI Honolulu Special Agent Jason White confirmed the FBI conducted several search warrants around the island but would not confirm whether the raids included the CNMI Governor’s Office.
Several sources did confirm with the Post that Gov. Torres’ home, vehicle and office were among the places that were raided as well as Legend Realty. FBI agents were also seen outside of the casino operator's administrative offices.
Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios later confirmed in a press conference the governor met with federal law enforcement when the search warrant was executed Thursday morning.
The governor issued a statement saying he and his staff are providing the “fullest measure of cooperation” with law enforcement authorities. “My priority has always been to continue in pursuit of what is best for the CNMI and its people. This has not changed,” stated Torres.
Phones were taken away
Around 9 a.m. Thursday, FBI agents pulled into the governor’s office on Capitol Hill and cordoned off the second floor. Agents were seen going through desktop computers and hard copy files and the staff’s cellphones were taken away, according to the Marianas Variety.
Agents were also seen going through files at the office of Alfred Yue of Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, a consultant of Imperial Pacific International, Saipan’s casino operator. Yue’s office is located at the IPI-owned Vestcor Commercial Plaza on Capitol Hill.
Yue was listed as IPI’s casino lobbyist by the Commonwealth Election Commission, earning a fee of $5,000 a month.
FBI agents were also seen meeting in the lobby of the Marianas Heights building where IPI’s offices had been raided earlier in the day.
White said, due to the ongoing investigation, he could not release any additional information about what agents were looking for nor confirm whether anything was taken during the raids.
'A positive clarification'
The CNMI governor said he swore to uphold the Constitution and respects the system of laws and will allow this process to take its course.
“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,” the governor added.
When asked whether Torres or any of his staff were taken in for questioning and if the raids impacted operations at the governor’s office, Torres’ chief of staff, Angel Demapan, stated, “We understand the questions and concerns of the community, but we remain committed to preserving the integrity of the ongoing process. We will continue to provide full cooperation and look forward to a positive clarification of this issue."
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Palacios said the governor had provided "full access" to his office.
'We are in the dark'
“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," stated Palacios. “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.”
Palacios said Gov. Torres had taken the afternoon off after spending the morning at the hospital for a family member's medical procedure.
CNMI Rep. Edwin Propst told The Guam Daily Post that he and other lawmakers had not been informed of anything regarding the raids.
"We are in the dark. Not just the community but the Legislature as well," he said. "We all want to know what is going on. I think we are all concerned."
IPI: 'Nothing to hide'
On Thursday night, IPI Holdings Ltd and IPI LLC issued a press release stating the companies have nothing to hide and will cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
"We want assure the people of the CNMI that we continue to be law abiding and good corporate citizens who are proud and privileged to be members of the CNMI," the companies stated. "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."