By Troy Torres
A Guam businessman, who calls himself Gov. Ralph Torres's "brother," appears in more expenditure records of the governor, leaving residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and of Guam wondering:
What business does John Ko have with Ralph Torres?
What business does the Commonwealth have with John Ko?
A June 21, 2016 memorandum from Mr. Torres to then-Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson shows Mr. Torres would be reimbursed for two dinners at separate restaurants, where he hosted Mr. Ko.
A March 21, 2016 receipt shows the Commonwealth's taxpayers spent $71 for the governor to dine with Mr. Ko at Jang Gun Restaurant. A handwritten note on the receipt states only, "John Ko Business Meeting."
Nearly two months later, on May 9, 2016, Mr. Torres dined Mr. Ko at Majesty Chinese Restaurant at a cost of $140.15 to the Commonwealth. According to the handwritten receipt, the governor, Mr. Ko and the governor's personal security detail (PSD) dined on hot & sour soup, salt & pepper shrimp, sweet & sour pork, combination fried rice, beef with broccoli, steamed fish, gyoza, two orders of siomai, and a $15 order of FuKen Fried Rice.
The handwritten note on this receipt copy states, "Hosting of Investors & PSDs. John Ko."
No justification was provided on or with either receipt for how the expenditures on Mr. Ko benefitted the Commonwealth.
Earlier Wednesday, Kandit exposed an odd wire transfer of $1,000 from the Commonwealth government to Guam in December 2018 involving Mr. Ko.
Mr. Ko appears on other reimbursement documents Kandit has yet to disclose. It is unclear how he is considered an investor in Saipan, as he is a Guam businessman with companies chartered only in Guam.
He is known to have ties to the Wyndham Gardens Guam hotel, which was one of the hotels servicing CNMI residents on medical trips to Guam via the CNMI Medical Referral Office.
Mr. Ko runs in the same political circles as Guam politicians and businessmen who have relationships with Mr. Torres, including Sen. Wil Castro, and International Royals owner Bic Sobti. Mr. Sobti recently was awarded millions in contracts by the Torres administration to provide personal protective equipment to the Commonwealth.