Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC is suing the Commonwealth Casino Commission to prevent it from making public confidential tax information pursuant to an Open Government Act request and has already obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the release of the information.
Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth Govendo issued the temporary restraining order yesterday, June 24; it is effective for 10 days. He has scheduled both IPI and CCC to return to court for a preliminary injunction on July 9 at 9am.
IPI is represented by lawyers Phillip Tydingco and Viola Alepuyo.
The temporary restraining order would restrain CCC from moving forward with disclosing the confidential tax information it had requested through the Open Government Act to the public until the preliminary injunction hearing.
IPI claims that it would suffer immediate, irreparable injury if CCC discloses the tax information, which it says is confidential.
“Specifically, the court finds that [IPI] will suffer injury if [CCC] releases the requested information. This injury is irreparable, and no monetary award will make [IPI] whole once the information is released. The court finds that [CCC] will not suffer any harm if the requested information is not released pending a determination of the merits of [IPI’s] petition,” the court order stated.
According to IPI, they are suing CCC for planning to disclose the tax return information, which are protected under a provision of the CNMI Constitution, to the Office of the Attorney General pursuant to an OAG opinion they had received.
CCC told IPI that they could not provide IPI with a copy of the OAG opinion because it is confidential.
IPI, as an exclusive casino license holder, is subject to reporting requirements with CCC which include, but are not limited to, the monthly reporting of information relating to its Business Gross Revenue Tax returns.
IPI filed the suit in order to permanently prohibit the CCC executive director and CCC staff from disclosing the tax information to the public even pursuant to an OGA request.
Ed Chen, chief financial officer of IPI, said that IPI received the OGA request from CCC on June 13, seeking three categories of information; audit reports for IPI/ Best Sunshine conducted by Ernst & Young for 2017 and 2018, all BGRT payments made by IPI to date with amounts and dates, and all corporate income taxes paid by IPI including dates paid.
Chen said that IPI objected to the OGA request, concerned that the information being requested is confidential tax information and not subject to public disclosure under certain provisions of the Commonwealth law. CCC disagreed.
Chen further explained that IPI’s annual financial statements are consolidated financial statements that incorporate tax and financial information from both Imperial Pacific Property LLC and Grand Marianas CNMI LLC.
“CCC disclosing a redacted copy of IPI’s annual audited financial statements not only will disclose IPI confidential information, but also confidential information relating to the other two companies,” Chen said.