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    Friday, September 20, 2019-5:17:10P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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IPI files TRO to prevent release of financial information provided to House, media

IMPERIAL Pacific International on Monday requested the Superior Court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the Commonwealth Casino Commission from releasing “confidential information,” including an audit report from Ernst & Young.

A copy of the report was submitted by House Minority Leader Edwin Propst to the House during the miscellaneous part of its session on Monday that started at 10 a.m. Copies were also provided to the media.

IPI, which filed its TRO petition at 9 a.m., told Variety that it was trying to protect the confidentiality of its financial information as allowed under the CNMI Constitution.

At 3:45 p.m., Monday, Judge Kenneth Govendo granted the motion for a TRO and set a hearing for July 9.

On June 13, 2019, the Commonwealth Casino Commission notified IPI that an Open Government Act request was received by CCC seeking information concerning IPI’s audited financial statement, business gross revenue tax payments, and corporate income tax payments.

CCC further notified IPI that an attorney general’s opinion was received which concluded that CCC could disclose the information sought in the Open Government Act request. However, CCC added, it could not provide IPI a copy of the AG’s opinion because it was confidential.

On Monday, IPI said it was asking the court to prevent the CCC from releasing the requested information based on CNMI constitutional and statutory rights to privacy.

Propst, for his part, urged the other House members to look into the audit report, specifically IPI’s consolidated financial statements and supplementary information in 2017-2018.

He said the 27-page audit report indicates that IPI still owes the CNMI government $33 million in 2017 corporate income tax and $5 million in 2018 business gross receipt tax. IPI also owes vendors a total of $35 million, Propst said, citing the audit report.

In his remarks, Propst told the other House members that they should be “deeply concerned” that “at the time we are cutting salaries and work hours we have a casino that is failing to pay its fair share of taxes.”

It is upsetting, he added, that the Commonwealth is now thinking about floating a pension obligation bond, trying to secure a line of credit from the Marianas Public Land Trust and implementing austerity measures when “there is a casino that is supposed to bring money to the CNMI but is not delivering.”

He added, “And the sad thing about this is that no one is discussing about it, not the administration. Nothing. And furthermore, I find it disturbing when the media is…not reporting it. They are defending the indefensible.”

He said “it is up to us as representatives of the people to ensure that this gets out there….”

In a statement to Variety, IPI Chairman Mark Brown said the casino investor “is put between a rock and a hard place. We want a good working relationship with our regulator, the CCC, [and] as is expected of IPI, we must follow all laws, like everyone else. All we are doing is asking the court to enforce the laws that say that a person has a protected right to privacy with their tax and other sensitive company information.”

Brown said “IPI reports all our financial information to the CCC on a monthly basis. In fact, we always report more than what is required.”

He added, “There are certain information that are public record and those that are not. The Open Government Act request to the CCC is seeking confidential information pertaining to IPI. We reserve the right to keep them confidential.”

Viola Alepuyo, legal counsel for IPI, said: “The CNMI laws and our Constitution offer protection for our confidential information. Therefore, IPI is taking steps in exercising its constitutional privacy rights and seek by requesting the court to grant IPI’s request to stop the CCC from releasing confidential information relative to IPI.”