The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which executed several search warrants last Thursday, told the Torres administration that their search on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ office was part of an investigation of “allegations.”
And, while the FBI has declined to divulge more details of its investigation and with the general lack of information surrounding the searches, Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan), who is with the House of Representatives opposition, believes it fair to say that corruption allegations are “not surprising.”
“It’s not that surprising that there would be issues of possible corruption under investigation. There have been serious questions that concerned citizens, myself included, have been asking even before the Saipan Casino Act became law—from the way that law has been passed up to other events that have transpired [since then],” she said in an interview with Saipan Tribune.
When asked to comment on the matter yesterday, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) replied that it was “sad.”
“It is sad. It is embarrassing as well, but anyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and so I am not going to presume that those people who have been questioned are guilty,” he said, urging those who may have information to step forward to assist in the investigation.
“Anybody in the Marianas who knows about any abuse, misuse, misappropriation of office, especially us, should speak out. Don’t make things up and don’t make community rumors run around. It’s not fair to those who are being questioned. They are innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
When asked what prompted the FBI searches, acting press secretary and chief of staff Angel Demapan just said: “…[The FBI] informed that it was part of an investigation of allegations. Unfortunately, no other details were provided to the administration at this point.”
“In an effort to preserve the integrity of the process, the administration continues to seek the community’s patience and support to allow the system of justice to take its course,” he added.
Demapan assured that the Torres administration remains focused on continuing its operations and delivery of public services—unimpeded by the investigation as it continues.
House Speaker Blas Jonathan “B.J.” Attao (R-Saipan) is also in the dark on specifics surrounding the investigation.
“It came as a shock because we were walking into a session when the news came in,” he said, replying to a question of how he received the news last Thursday.
The Legislature had a joint session on Rota last Thursday.
“I honestly don’t know [anything about the investigation] and we should respect the process and see where it goes from there. It is unfortunate for the Commonwealth and really unfortunate for the families involved,” said Attao. “If we knew something, we could really say something about it, but it really is just a dark day for the CNMI. It is an unfortunate situation and we will see the outcome of this.”
Rep. Tina Sablan shared a similar reaction. “Most of us [in the Legislature] learned about the searches either right before or during the [joint] session,” she said. “There are a lot rumors and speculation about what might be going on, and still, we don’t really know what the purpose of these searches was.”
FBI agents fanned out across Saipan last Thursday to execute the search warrants that included the Governor’s Office, the office of Alfred Yue of Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, a consultant for Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC; Legend Realty Saipan; and the Torres Brothers at Law LLC. Even Torres’ home and vehicle were reportedly searched.
“We have provided them with all the information and access that they have asked for, with the intent of being completely transparent and helpful in the investigation,” Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, during which he affirmed that the FBI was searching Torres’ office but did not specify the reason.
An IPI statement released late Thursday said its companies in the CNMI have nothing to hide and will cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
Even the name of former Northern Marianas College president Dr. Carmen Fernandez has been dragged into the fray. She is listed as a sole member of IPI CNMI.
According to records at the U.S. District Court for the NMI, the U.S. Department of the Treasury-Internal Revenue Service filed last April 25 a notice of federal tax lien against Fernandez as IPI’s sole member for unpaid employer’s quarterly federal tax return in the amount of $65,706.
Saipan Tribune was still trying to get comments from Fernandez as of press time yesterday.
IRS said they are giving a notice that taxes (including interest and penalties) have been assessed against Fernandez. IRS said they have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid.
“Therefore, there is a lien in favor of the United States on all property and rights to property belonging to this taxpayer for the amount of these taxes, and additional penalties, interest, and costs that may accrue,” the IRS states in its notice of federal tax lien.
IRS said Fernandez was assessed on March 6, 2017, and Nov. 5, 2018, for unpaid balance of assessment in the amount of $60 and $65,645 in employer’s quarterly federal tax return for tax periods ending in Dec. 31, 2016 and March 31, 2018, respectively.
Fernandez used to serve as Guam senator. She was NMC president from 2008 to 2010. She became NMC president again in September 2016. In August 2018, she opted not to renew her contract as NMC president which was supposed to expire on Oct. 3, 2018. (With Ferdie de la Torre)