Gaming | Saipan casino operator raided by US federal agents

The Best Sunshine Live casino operated by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. stands in Saipan

U.S. federal agents raided a Saipan office of Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. last week, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigators took documents from the office, said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss a non-public matter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation participated in the raid, one of the people said.

Imperial Pacific, which is based in Hong Kong, said on Tuesday that it had “not heard” of any official visit to its offices. It has denied any wrongdoing related to its Saipan operations. In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, Imperial Pacific said “there was no raid by U.S. agents on any of its offices, its casino, or buildings.”

Imperial Pacific has attracted broad attention in the gaming industry for the volumes being recorded at its Saipan casino, which are far larger on a per-table basis than those at the grandest resorts in Macau.

Since arriving on Saipan in 2014, the company has become the dominant force on the island, a U.S. territory with a population of about 50,000. It has made millions of dollars in payments to Governor Ralph Torres’s extended family, including long-term land lease transactions and hiring his brothers’ law firm for its Saipan legal affairs. The governor and his relatives have said they have not acted improperly.

“As a matter of legal policy, the FBI does not regularly comment on criminal investigations, to include confirming or denying cases, their status as ongoing or not,” the agency said in a written statement.

“However,” it went on, “public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority. Elected or appointed officials are entrusted and expected to protect the interests of the people with integrity. When that trust is betrayed, the security and stability of our government is put at risk. Anyone with information about a potential violation of federal law is asked to contact the FBI.”

It’s not clear what the aim of last week’s raid was, but it was at least the second time that U.S. law-enforcement officials have made inquiries related to Imperial Pacific’s casino project in Saipan.

FBI agents visited an office leased by the company in March 2017. U.S. prosecutors later charged several employees of Imperial Pacific construction contractors with offenses related to using undocumented labor. Some pleaded guilty. Imperial Pacific said at the time that it had no knowledge of workers being employed illegally. Matthew Campbell and K. Oanh Ha, Bloomberg

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