Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ office on Capital Hill early yesterday, as part of a swath of several search warrants the FBI executed in the CNMI yesterday.
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios confirmed this in a media briefing later in the afternoon, without disclosing further information.
FBI agents reportedly appeared at Torres’ office on Capital Hill as early as 9am.
Responding to questions at the media briefing at the Office of the Governor conference room, Palacios clarified that he was leading the press conference because the governor took the afternoon off after a family member had to undergo a medical procedure yesterday morning.
Palacios affirmed at the media briefing that federal agents were still in Torres’ office as of 3:30pm yesterday and were still executing their searches.
“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,” Palacios said, even as he assured that the searches wouldn’t impede regular government operations.
He further noted that there have been no interrogations or interviews so far.
Palacios said he was sure the FBI had talked to Torres before the search yesterday, but he also noted that it was something he could not disclose on behalf of the governor.
Palacios did not confirm whether search warrants were executed on other establishments on Saipan, but IPI Holdings Ltd and its subsidiary, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, appear to confirm this with a “joint press release” issued last night.
According to the statement: “First, our companies have nothing to hide and will cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
“Secondly, we want 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 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.”
A Guam news outlet had reported that the office of Alfred Yue of Marianas Consultancy Services LLC, an IPI consultant, had been searched, as well as Legend Realty Saipan and even Torres’ home and vehicle.
Saipan Tribune yesterday reached out to House Speaker Rep. Blas Jonathan “B.J.” Attao (R-Saipan) and Senate President Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) for information but both said that they are unaware of the FBI’s intent and of the search until it was made public yesterday.
Saipan Tribune also reached out to other members of the Legislature, who were all on Rota for a joint session, but they all seemed taken by surprise as well.
Palacios assured at the media briefing: “We understand the questions and concerns that are coming from our community, but we remain committed to preserving the integrity of the ongoing process. We will continue to provide full cooperation and we look forward to a positive clarification of the issues that they are looking into.”
In a separate statement, Torres noted that he holds the “highest respect” for all law enforcement officials on and off duty.
“At this time, paramount of my own responsibilities as both governor and a citizen is to provide the fullest measure of cooperation to any of [the FBI’s] requests of me and of my staff,” he said, adding that his priority to pursue what is “best for the CNMI and its people” is unchanged.
“In every opportunity I have been given to serve this community, I have raised my hand and have sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. A part of this oath is to respect our system of laws and to allow these processes to take their course,” he said.
“As information is provided, I will continue to do what I have always done, which is to support the goals and aspirations of the people I serve and to remain worthy of this privilege that has been given to me. For this reason, I look forward to continuing to do this important work with the utmost integrity,” he added.
An official statement from the Governor’s Office at around 12pm yesterday stated that it is confident that any resulting findings from the search will be “…no reason for concern.”