By Nancy I. Maanao
Within days of Supertyphoon Yutu’s destruction of the Northern Mariana Islands, Gov. Ralph Torres told then-Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson to wire transfer $1,000 to Guam for a K-pop concert.
The request for the wire transfer and a letter providing so-called justification for the expenditures are part of a publicly-available set of spending documents all the media has access to.
On November 16, 2018, then-general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau Nathan Denight wrote to Mr. Torres and to others requesting sponsorship money for the December 1, 2018 concert in Tumon.
GVB put the concert together to promote Guam, not the CNMI, as a tourist destination for Koreans.
At the time, thousands of families in the Commonwealth were homeless as a result of Yutu’s destruction. Austerity also was imminent, with the governor later telling residents the Commonwealth just didn’t have enough money to pay for operations.
The Denight letter lists a peculiar point of contact - Guam businessman John Ko. Mr. Ko has personal ties to Mr. Torres, and often tells officials from Guam that Mr. Torres is his “brother.”
Other documents that have raised suspicion about fraudulent reimbursements to Mr. Torres also involve Mr. Ko.
Just four days after Mr. Denight‘s solicitation letter, Mr. Torres penned his letter to Ms. Larson for the wire transfer to Guam, documents show.