FBI raids Bank of Saipan, police office; ARP-funded program under probe
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
By Bryan Manabat
Saipan-- FBI agents on Monday executed a search warrant on the Bank of Saipan seeking information about the Building Optimism Opportunity and Stability Together or BOOST program.
Prior to Monday's raid, the FBI team searched the CNMI Department of Public Safety offices last Friday,
In an official statement to the media Monday morning, the FBI confirmed that an investigation is ongoing at DPS and BOS, but did not provide additional information regarding the search.
FBI agents were seen on DPS premises on Dec. 16. They searched the CNMI Bureau of Motor Vehicles, then DPS IT offices next. The FBI agents were also seen taking photos of documents in the DPS offices but were not seen taking any documents.
DPS spokesman Adrian Pangelinan told reporters that he has no information on what exactly the FBI was searching for, or what the search warrant stated.
Pangelinan said DPS and the BMV were not aware of the raid until FBI agents showed up on the premises.
"We always had a good working relationship with the FBI and are confident they will do what they have to do and let DPS know of their findings as needed," added Pangelinan.
Later, many residents reported the presence of FBI agents at the Bank of Saipan office on Beach Road, Chalan Laulau, Monday morning.
The Pacific Island Times learned that the FBI is investigating the BOOST grant program, which the bank administers.
The BOOST grant program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. It provides financial assistance to CNMI businesses and non-profit organizations. The intent of the program is to support the viability of those businesses and the employment opportunities they offer residents of the CNMI, to further the government’s goal of a diverse economy, and to increase commonwealth tax revenues.
The BOOST program also extended a subsistence grant application to fishermen, farmers, and ranchers.
Walk-in clients at the Bank of Saipan also witnessed FBI agents bringing out boxes of documents from the bank.
BOS president John Arroyo was present at the bank when the FBI agents executed the search warrant.
Arroyo also appeared before a joint investigative committee hearing at the CNMI legislature Monday afternoon.
Arroyo testified before the Ways and Means Committee, and Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee on the timing of the BOOST program implementation, selection, process, and approval of the BOOST grant application.
Gov.Ralph DLG. Torres' political opponents questioned the timing of the rolling out of the BOOST program and stated that the BOOST grant was used to "buy" votes in the 2022 general election.
About 1,700 submitted applications and more than 200 businesses have received BOOST grant funding.