CCC elects Edward Deleon Guerrero chairman, and Rafael Demapan vice chairman
By Troy Torres
Rep. Tina Sablan this morning called for the Commonwealth Casino Commission to revoke Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC's casino license for repeatedly breaching the terms of the casino license agreement, as amended.
The CCC is holding its monthly meeting at this hour. Casino officials and their paid supporters now are scrambling to defend the casino's track record in unicorn land.
"We all need to talk now about revoking this license, and the conditions that - and the due process that needs to take place at this point," Ms. Sablan said. "It just seems to me that the writing is on the wall and maintaining the status quo is just not sufficient at all."
Former House speaker Rafael Demapan, whom Ms. Sablan defeated in the last election in their district, also spoke during the meeting, but took a different tone. Mr. Demapan asked IPI to work on its public relations and to share more "positive insights" so that everyone can have a "more credible perspective" of these "exciting times."
(Mr. Demapan authored the casino's enabling statute. He was elected vice chairman of the CCC during the meeting. Edward Deleon Guerrero was elected vice chairman.)
IPI has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on public relations, according to vendor files leaked to Kandit News. This does not include the non-tallied value of public relations conducted for IPI by the Governor's Office, the Republican majority in the Commonwealth Legislature, and the CCC itself.
IPI and the CCC are mutually reliant on each other for survival. Without the CCC, IPI could not statutorily exist. Without IPI, the CCC would not be funded.
IPI was supposed to have deposited $38 million into the Community Benefit Fund, but has only deposited about $12 million into an account that IPI controls and from which the CNMI government has only drawn down some $1.3 million, according to documents.
The construction of the Garapan behemoth was laden with the death and injury of construction workers, and protests from contract workers stemming from labor and pay disputes that the Torres administration took no interest in resolving justly.
Gov. Ralph Torres fired his former labor secretary, Edith Deleon Guerrero, for her refusal to force grieving contract workers onto a plane back to China to rid the Commonwealth of a labor scandal involving the casino.
The regulatory and statutory landscape of the CNMI has been turned upside down since IPI's licensure, with administration and legislative cronies tied to the casino bending regulations and the law, sometimes belatedly, to the whim of the casino's continued operation, even when presented with evidence of massive impropriety, safety violations, and corruption. According to IPI vendor documents, several Torres administration officials and Republican legislators, and their family members, are paid vendors of the casino.
The literal landscape of the Commonwealth also has changed drastically since IPI, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of land transactions through long term leases literally selling vast chunks of Saipan to people and corporations connected directly to the Communist Party of China.
This is not to mention many other concerns regarding crime, police corruption, and social justice issues that have plagued the Commonwealth as a direct result of the casino's bulldozer effect on Commonwealth society. Nor do these grievances include federal investigations into money laundering by IPI, and the corruption of the Torres administration, and Mr. Torres's brothers and all but one of their wives.
"They've consistently delayed payroll," Ms. Sablan said. "What taxes have they prioritized? I would really like to know that. My understanding is that they're also in arrears with taxes to this government. Where do we go from here, Commissioners? This is clearly a failed venture. This is your obligation, your responsibility is to regulate, is to ensure compliance and to look after the interests of the Commonwealth. And when this casino license agreement is clearly failing to meet its obligations, and it has a long pattern of doing so, at what point do we say that it's enough. I hope to get some clear answer. I hope you can get some clear answers from IPI on the timeline. I hope you have decision makers at the table. I'm curious to know who are the decision makers are at this point. And if we're not even able to do that - to get answers, to actually get decision makers to come and in a believable way represent solutions to the problems we have been tolerating for so long, then it really is incumbent upon you to take the necessary action to look after the interest of the Commonwealth. And if you need further guidance, legislation, anything from this legislature to support your efforts to do your jobs. Please advise us. I am advocating the passage of legislation that is pending in the House. I think that's one step." - Tina Sablan
Even Commissioner Edward Deleon Guerrero, who had been a proponent of the casino during his tenure as CCC executive director, reamed IPI for its failures and its inability to provide answers to the CCC during the meeting.
"Why do you have to wait until you're disconnected?" Mr. Deleon Guerrero asked IPI vice president of public relations Tao Xing regarding IPI's payment of utilities arrears following the disconnection of power service at its main facility and worker housing.
"I don't know; I'm not sure," Mr. Xing answered back.
"This is why the commission needs to issue an order requiring the licensee to come before the commission and answer these questions," Mr. Deleon Guerrero exclaimed. "She needs to appear here!"
Mr. Deleon Guerrero was referring to Ciu Li Jie, IPI's chairwoman. He also called for a financial suitability hearing.
The CCC's audit and compliance manager also lamented to the commission that she has not received a report of violations from IPI's finance department for the past five months. She said when she asks questions, she gets no answers.