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CNMI governor slams Imperial Pacific's blurry deals



By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Saipan-  The Commonwealth Casino Commission has finally revoked the Imperial Pacific International’s exclusive casino license. But despite its promise to “leave the island peacefully,” the Saipan casino operator’s final chapter is not closing without a stir.


“Years of lawsuits, unpaid workers and vendors, broken promises, and an unfinished shell of a hotel building at the heart of our tourist district in Garapan have brought us to this point,” CNMI Gov. Arnold Palacios said.


The casino license revocation resulted from IPI’s failure to pay the $60 million debt it owes the CNMI for outstanding fees levied by CCC.

 

Palacios said IPI has not been forthright with its dealings with the CNMI.


Arnold Palacios

Until last week’s revocation hearing, the governor said, IPI never disclosed to CCC that it had filed in court a memorandum of agreement signed by the external investor Kyosei Bank, promising cash infusion for the completion of the casino building.

 

“If this is in fact true, there is nothing barring IPI from simply paying what it owes the CNMI government and IPI's judgment creditors in the commonwealth and federal courts,” Palacios said.


“If IPI is truly interested in ‘leaving the island peacefully’ and settling its debts to the commonwealth, it can begin by acting in good faith and transparency and providing in writing what I have requested all along: settlement terms that are fair and beneficial to the commonwealth, agreeable to the CCC, and approved by the Attorney General,” he added.


IPI Director Howyo Chi testified before the Commonwealth Casino Commission at the revocation hearing last week. Photo courtesy of Marianas Variety

Palacios on Tuesday issued a long statement, lashing back at Howyo Chi, IPI director, who has accused the governor of reneging on a deal.

 

“Let me be clear: I have not seen the proposal that was filed under sealI have no idea what the terms are,” Palacios said.


At the revocation hearing, Chi testified that Palacios thumbed down a $50 million settlement agreement between IPI and CCC.


Chi told the commission that IPI has proposed to transfer its casino license to a new investor and pay $31 million for its arrears plus $16 million for lifting its license suspension before “leaving the island peacefully.”


Palacios said he was not privy to the terms of the sealed agreement between IPI and CCC.


“I was brought into settlement discussions between IPI and the CCC late in the game—on Feb. 6, just two weeks ahead of what was then the revocation hearing date,” the governor.


“My involvement was necessary only to the extent that any settlement would require my signature on yet another amendment to IPI’s casino license agreement,” he added.

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The governor said the settlement amount Chi disclosed at the revocation hearing was different from the price tag proposed to him.


“That proposal, under which IPI would pay only $15 million of the more than $60 million it owes the commonwealth in arrears, was the only one ever tendered to me before the revocation hearing commenced on Feb. 28,” Palacios said.


He clarified that this $15 million offer was the proposal that he turned down as did the CCC and Office of the Attorney General.


“From the beginning, I was clear that I wanted the opportunity to carefully review proposed settlement terms in writing before making any decisions on a license amendment,” Palacios said.

 

“I wanted to make sure that the terms of any settlement would be beneficial to the Commonwealth and have the endorsement of the CCC and the OAG,” he added.




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