Posted on: May 25, 2022, 09:02h.
Last updated on: May 25, 2022, 09:47h.
Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has done it again. The casino operator figured out a last-minute maneuver to avoid losing its casino license in Saipan, keeping alive its dream to bring the Imperial Palace resort back to life.
IPI has been fighting a losing battle in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) for the past few years. What should have been the start of a massive revenue-generating exercise for the region has been a money-losing debacle.
The company has mismanaged the project almost from the start, and continues to show an innate inability to circumvent its responsibilities. It somehow avoids its permanent removal, and did it once again. Just as it was to appear in a hearing where it would have almost certainly lost its license, it convinced a judge to give it another shot.
IPI Continues Pulling Strings
The CNMI’s Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) was planning on putting IPI in the hot seat in March to discuss its casino license, which the commission suspended last year. The operator was able to convince the CCC to delay the meeting until earlier this month, and then to today. However, it’s not going to happen now, either.
IPI filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to suspend the hearing, according to the Saipan Tribune. The judge approved it, buying the operator’s argument that it is going to have $150 million within the next week to pay off its bills.
The company owes tens of millions of dollars to CNMI. It owes more to companies involved in the construction of the expansion of the Imperial Palace casino. It also owes employees back pay, and even its own parent company suggested it give up on its Saipan dreams.
IPI owes over $18 million in licensing and regulatory fees from 2020. It owes another $20 million in mandatory contributions to a community benefit fund, to which it failed to pay in 2018 and 2019.
It also has not complied with a court order to demonstrate the availability of $2 billion in capital, nor has it paid millions to several vendors. On more than one occasion, employees have waited for weeks to receive their pay.
However, because IPI asserted that a huge injection of funds was coming, the judge stated that allowing the hearing to move forward would cause additional harm. If it doesn’t produce the funds in a week, the judge may have something else to say.
Huge Legal Bill for Former IPI Chair
Cui Lijie, the former chair of IPI, will have to pay $182,637 in attorney’s fees and costs by June 21. This follows an order by Chief Judge Ramona Manglona, District Court for the CNMI, who routinely oversees court proceedings involving IPI.
Manglona granted plaintiffs the “second, third, and fourth petitions for attorneys’ fees & costs against third-party witness Cui,” according to her ruling. The decision comes from Cui’s violation of court orders regarding the preservation of electronically stored data (ESI).
The violations go back almost a year, to March of 2021. At the time, the CNMI court issued the initial preservation order, which it later amended. It continued until Cui’s purged her contempt-of-court order this past March.
Manglona stated in her 26-page decision that Cui had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders. As a result, she had no choice but to award the plaintiffs the attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs, part of a lawsuit against IPI over alleged human trafficking, were allowed to submit fee petitions to establish their entitlement to the amount.
Cui is a third-party witness in the lawsuit. The court awarded $5.4 million to the plaintiffs last year. However, according to the latest information, IPI still hasn’t settled the order.