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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-12:54:47P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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FBI raids governor’s, other offices

FEDERAL Bureau of Investigation agents raided the governor’s office and other locations on Saipan, Thursday, including the governor’s home and the law offices of his siblings.

Jason K. White, public affairs officer for the Honolulu Division of the FBI, said they executed several search warrants, but cannot comment on ongoing investigation.

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Federal Bureau of Investigations agents confer in the lobby of Marianas Heights Building where Imperial Pacific International’s finance and human resources offices are located. The IPI offices were among those raided by the FBI on Thursday.  Photo by Bryan Manabat

Variety learned that the FBI also conducted searches at the Legend Realty office, Imperial Pacific International’s finance and human resources offices at Marianas Heights Building, and the office of IPI consultant Alfred Yue of Marianas Consultancy Services LLC at the IPI-owned Vestcor Commercial Plaza on Capital Hill.

Capital Hill sources said two gray vans pulled into the parking area of the administration building around 9 a.m., Thursday morning. At least five FBI agents entered the building and proceeded to the second floor, which was then cordoned off. Desktop computers of the governor’s office were examined, and the FBI agents also went through all hard copy files. All of the staff underwent questioning by the agents, and their cell phones were taken away. The governor was present during the search.

Asked for comment, his office said that it “received a search warrant and is currently being inspected by federal agents. The Office of the Governor is fully cooperating with the investigation and is confident that any resulting findings will see that there is no reason for concern. The governor’s office respects the process and will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

The FBI agents were still in the governor’s office on the second floor of the administration building when Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios held a press conference at 3:15 p.m. in the conference room on the ground floor.

Palacios said the governor’s office “provided them [the FBI] with all the information [they needed] and the access that they have asked.”

The governor’s office, he added, is “completely transparent” and helpful in the investigation.

Palacios said he and the governor also want to assure the people that the administration “remains committed to preserve the integrity of the ongoing process.”

He added, “We continue to provide full cooperation and we look forward to a positive clarification of the issues that they [the FBI] are looking [for].”

He said the raid caught everyone in the administration building by surprise.

“Anytime we have this kind of situation the staff, of course, and everyone else would be surprised, but this is [part of the legal] process,” he added.

Palacios said he and the governor “would also like to assure our citizens and residents that this has not slowed down any of our government operations or the ongoing initiatives that we have undertaken to improve the economy and the lives of our people.”

Palacios said the governor was in the hospital earlier in the morning to check on his mother who was undergoing a medical procedure. He proceeded to his office when he learned about the presence of the FBI.

Palacios said he arrived at the administration building almost at the same time as the governor. They did not know right away what was going on, Palacios added.

At the time of the press conference, Palacios said the FBI agents were still conducting a search in the governor’s office. He said the governor felt that the agents would be “more comfortable” if he was out of the office while the search was ongoing.

Shocked

On Rota, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were about to start their joint session when they started receiving calls from Saipan, informing them of what was happening at the administration building.

House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said he and his colleagues were “shocked” to hear the news.

“But at the same time, I am grateful that the governor’s office is cooperating,” he added.

Probable cause

According to the website of the Blanch Law Firm of New York:

“Often, as part of their investigations, the FBI will conduct what is typically known as a ‘raid.’ A ‘raid’ is a search of the residence, office, or otherwise private area of any person that is believed to have information relating to a crime and could result in the seizure of anything to be considered ‘evidence.’ In order to conduct a raid, the FBI must have a search warrant.”

The Blanch Law Firm said in order to obtain a valid search warrant, the FBI must have probable cause.

“If the FBI believes there is probable cause they will present it to a magistrate (a judge). The judge will then decide if there is sufficient information to issue a search warrant. If the magistrate decides there is probable cause a search warrant will be issued that narrowly describes the place to be searched and the persons or things that may be seized.

“The magistrate must be a neutral and detached third party from the investigation and case, if the matter goes on to trial.”

(With Bryan Manabat and Junhan B. Todino)