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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Saipan raid linked to money laundering investigation

Imperial Casino

Federal authorities are investigating CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres, his family and the casino operator Imperial Pacific International for possible money laundering, wire fraud, conspiracy and illegal contributions by foreign nationals among others, court documents show.

A court warrant issued by Federal Judge Ramona Manglona on Nov. 6 authorized FBI agents to search multiple locations on Saipan for printed and electronic documents, tax papers, bank records, cash, jewelry, luxury items and other suspicious assets.

Subjects of the search warrant include Gov. Ralph Torres, first lady Diann Torres, his bothers Vincent, Victorino and Joaquin Torres, who own Torres Brothers Law Offices, his sisters-in-law Brenda and Rowina Torres, casino lobbyist Alfred Chi-Yam Yue, realtor Ron Li Anderson.

Last week, FBI raided the governor’s office on Capital Hill, the Legend Realty office, Imperial Pacific International’s finance and human resources offices at Marianas Heights Building, and the Marianas Consultancy Services LLC owned by Yue, who was the managing director of the now-defunct Tinian Dynasty.

“Capital Hill sources said two gray vans pulled into the parking area of the administration building around 9 a.m., Thursday morning. At least five FBI agents entered the building and proceeded to the second floor, which was then cordoned off,” according to Marianas Variety’s Nov. 8 report. “Desktop computers of the governor’s office were examined, and the FBI agents also went through all hard copy files. All of the staff underwent questioning by the agents, and their cell phones were taken away. The governor was present during the search.”

Angel Demapan, the governor’s chief of staff, said “the Office of the Governor is fully cooperating with the investigation and is confident that any resulting findings will see that there is no reason for concern.The Governor’s Office respects the process and will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

According to the search warrant, federal authorities were to seize items that “constitute evidence of violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 (Fraud by wire, radio, or television), 1346, 1349 (Attempt and conspiracy), 1956 (Knowing disregard of bankruptcy law or rule) and/or 52 U.S.C. § 30121 (Contributions and donations by foreign nationals)."

The property to be searched is specifically identified as the Accounting Office of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) on the first floor of the office located in the Marina Heights Office Park on Middle Road.

Among the targets of search include foreign and domestic bank account information, wire transfer requests, financial statements, credit card account information, invoices, cancelled checks, credit reports, loan records, debt obligations, and travel records including incidental expenses.

FBI agents were also searching for all documents and records relating to donations and contributions to political campaigns or to candidates for political office.

The search warrant also authorized the examination of all billing documents relating to services provided to IPI, retainer agreements and withdrawals authorized by Anderson, documents, records, and property related to Billion Ventures (CNMI) Limited or Legend Giant Investments Limited Hong Kong dated on or after Sept. 1, 2013.

According to Saipan Tribune, Legend Giant Investment Limited is the majority owner of Legend Realty, and Anderson holds 49 percent shares.

IPI Holdings issued a statement last week, saying its companies "have nothing to hide and will cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

Secondly, we want to 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. Finally, 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."


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