Lawmakers seek corruption probe of CNMI governor

The six-member CNMI House of Representatives’ minority bloc asked Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao to appoint a special committee to investigate Governor Ralph Torres on allegations of public corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse of public funds, with some of the suspicions focusing on his relationship with casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI).

“The recent FBI raids on the home and office of the governor and his associates, and the revelations of lavish and questionable expenses charged by the governor to the people of the Commonwealth, have severely eroded public trust and the integrity of our government. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye,” the lawmakers wrote in a two-page letter to the speaker.

The governor has denounced the call for an investigation: “With today’s request, the House minority and their supporters want to further divide our community because of politics that seeks to disrupt a vision of a stronger and more prosperous Marianas.”

While the precise nature of the accusations remain to be clarified, they do involve the governor’s “highly suspected role in the passage of the casino legislation, and his leadership in enforcing the provisions of the casino license agreement, [and] possible involvement of foreign campaign donations to influence the outcome of a democratic election process,” according to one opinion article in Marianas Variety.

Both its lead lawyer and IPI CEO Mark Brown have resigned with explanation in recent days.