By Jacob Nakamura
It was Papichoulo670 himself who allowed the casino to have control over $10 million in Community Benefit Fund money meant to help the people of the Commonwealth.
According to Section 16b of the Casino License Agreement between the CNMI government and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC:
"Upon the execution of an amendment to the License Agreement, on or before August 1, 2017. to extend the dates for the completed construction and beginning of operations of Phase One and Phase Two of the Integrated Resort, the Licensee shall by no later than January 1, 2018 contribute ten million dollars ($10,000,000); and by no later than June 1, 2018 Licensee shall contribute an additional ten million dollars ($10,000,000), for a total of ($20,000,000) towards its community benefits programs and towards, amongst others: education, scholarships, infrastructure, health care, employee retirement benefits, as may be determined in consultation with the Governor."
The money was supposed to be remitted to the CNMI government; but it wasn't.
And that's the result of a belated Christmas gift from Gov. Ralph Torres to IPI in 2017.
On December 29, 2017, Mr. Torres wrote to then-IPI CEO Ed Chen:
"It is my position that IPI would remain in compliance with the CLA if IPI were to showcase proof of the availability of the $10 million and segregate this amount into a separate account or an interest-bearing escrow account prior to January 1, 2018."
Mr. Torres designated his legal counsel, Gil Birnbrich, as his point man for the arrangement, and the letter was delivered via email by then-chief of staff Matthew Deleon Guerrero to Mr. Chen. Mr. Deleon Guerrero, whose father Edward C. Deleon Guerrero is the executive director of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, forwarded the correspondence to Viola Alepuyo five days after transmission to IPI's CEO and to the elder Deleon Guerrero.
No rationale for Mr. Torres's decision to allow IPI to keep the money exists in the disclosure of the email train, known as Document No. 9 from an Open Government Act disclosure made to the legislative independent minority.
Mr. Deleon Guerrero did not state in any of the emails why Mr. Torres would have IPI set up a separate bank account for the money, when the CNMI government easily could have done the same thing. Neither did Mr. Torres in his letter provide a reason for allowing IPI to keep the money that rightfully belonged to the citizens of the Commonwealth under the trust and care of the government.
None of the documents that were disclosed discuss how the interest borne from the IPI escrow account would be spent, if by the CNMI government at all.