IPI to pursue legal action; CCC weighing its options

Torres, Torres Brothers law firm mum

Commonwealth Casino Commission chair Juan Sablan gets emotional as he delivers a statement on the Bloomberg piece alleging corruption. (Erwin Encinares)

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC intends to pursue legal action against Bloomberg for a magazine article on the grounds of defamation, while the Commonwealth Casino Commission discussed in an executive session possible legal action as well.

In Bloomberg Businessweek’s Feb. 15, 2018, article, “A Chinese Casino Has Conquered a Piece of America,” it alleged that IPI has flouted rules in doing business in the CNMI and has had improper relationships with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and several of his family members,

IPI released a statement Wednesday evening that it is planning to pursue legal action against the magazine publisher.

Separately, the Commonwealth Casino Commission discussed yesterday possible legal actions against the magazine during its open meeting and in an executive session, which is usually not open to the public.

Before Saipan Tribune left the meeting yesterday, an emotional commission chair Juan Sablan denied the article’s corruption allegation. “We are doing our job.”

Sablan, who appeared to be fighting back tears, said: “The commission is not corrupted. We never received any money. …If you have doubt[s], come to the meetings because at every meeting, we question IPI on every detail.”

He insists that the commission regularly reviews and strengthens regulations to make sure “IPI complies with the best interest of the Commonwealth.”

In an interview yesterday, Torres told Saipan Tribune that he has yet to consider pursuing legal actions against the magazine, while his brother, Victor Torres, said, “No comment on those issues and no comment on the firm.” Victor Torres is one of three brothers of the governor at the family run Torres Brothers law firm, which the magazine article claims to have benefited from IPI.

The governor also declined to comment on IPI’s decision to sue.

In yesterday’s commission meeting, executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero, said the magazine has its own agenda.

“We are not politicians; we are regulators…We do not participate in [politics],” said Deleon Guerrero. “Most people who understand the national scene know that Bloomberg is a far-left organization. …If you’re a Republican, you are not a friend of Bloomberg. If you are a friend of [U.S. President Donald J. Trump], you are not a friend of Bloomberg,” he said.

“Since IPI opened, they have been the low-hanging fruit that is easy to pick, easy to criticize,” he added.

The article mentions that politics in the CNMI is “dominated by two prominent families, one of them the Deleon Guerreros.” It later mentions that the CCC executive director is Gov. Torres’ uncle, and that Gov. Torres’ former chief of staff turned executive adviser to the governor is Deleon Guerrero’s son, Matt Deleon Guerrero.

In response, Deleon Guerrero pointed out that he has been executive director of the casino commission before Gov. Torres took office in late 2015. He also noted that the commissioners—chair Juan Sablan, vice chair Joseph Reyes, Alvaro Santos, Martin San Nicolas, and Justin Manglona—are all appointees of the late governor Eloy S. Inos, who was Gov. Torres’ predecessor.

Matt Deleon Guerrero has been Gov. Torres’ chief of staff since the latter was still the lieutenant governor of Inos.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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