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Last updateFri, 19 Jul 2019 12am

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    Thursday, July 18, 2019-12:12:58A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Court to rule on IPI tax information case on July 19

SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo will decide on July 19 whether to continue or lift the temporary restraining order against the Commonwealth Casino Commission regarding the disclosure of Imperial Pacific International’s tax information.

The judge is expected to issue an order at the close of business day.

On June 13, 2019, CCC notified IPI that an Open Government Act request was received by the commission from House Minority Leader Edwin Propst who was seeking information concerning IPI’s audited financial statement, business gross revenue tax payments, and corporate income tax payments.

On June 24, 2019, at 9 a.m., IPI petitioned the court for a TRO. During a House session that started at 10 a.m. on the same day, Propst submitted a copy of IPI’s financial audit report to the House of Representatives.

At 3:45 p.m., Judge Govendo issued a TRO. Since then, a copy of the audit report has been posted and shared on social media.

On July 9, Tuesday, the judge extended the TRO for 10 more days. The financial statements with redacted information that IPI and the casino commission agreed to will continue to be publicly available information, the judge said.

IPI said it objects to the release of its “unredacted” audited financial statements because they contain confidential information such as income tax, confidential information (a “going concern” audit report by Ernst & Young on IPI’s financial statement for 2017 and 2018), and information about other companies.

IPI said it has privacy rights under the U.S. and CNMI constitutions. It said its income tax return information and information about other companies “are confidential and therefore, should be protected.”

IPI stated that the unauthorized disclosure of its confidential financial statements has been reported in the media, resulting in accusations against IPI.

“Accusations such as: not paying taxes, not paying its share of taxes, and not paying vendors. Accusations which are all categorically unfair and has caused irreparable harm to IPI’s reputation both locally and internationally,” IPI stated.

It added that releasing protected and “unresolved” information “will likely stir public rumor and innuendo.”

IPI is represented by attorneys Viola Alepuyo and Philip Tydingco. Enjoining IPI in its motion for a preliminary injunction is Grand Marianas LLC and Imperial Pacific Properties LLC represented by attorney Mathew Gregory.

CCC and its executive director Edward C. Deleon Guerrero are represented by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Ernest and Benjamin Petersburg.

The government lawyers, in their opposition to IPI’s motion for preliminary injunction, said the plaintiff has no likelihood of success on the merits.

They said IPI has no constitutional privacy interest under the U.S. and CNMI constitutions and “any alleged disparate treatment does not violate the equal protection clause.”

They said IPI relies on statutes that are inapplicable because the information in the public file does not contain “tax returns” or “return information” within the meaning of the tax statutes.

The Commonwealth gaming law requires the commission to obtain and make publicly available the information which the plaintiff “seeks to keep hidden from the public,” the government lawyers said.

The TRO prevents the commission from doing what which it is legally obligated to do, the government lawyers argued.