The remote island of Saipan has long been a target for abusive labor practices, but a recent raid on a major gambling establishment has revealed a power structure that goes straight to the top of the U.S. government.
Many will remember the scandal that lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Republican Tom Delay were swept up in a dozen years ago regarding textile industries on the island, from CNN:
“Because they were produced in a territory of the United States, garments traveled tariff-free and quota-free to the profitable U.S. market and were entitled to display the coveted “Made in the USA” label.
Among the manufacturers that had profited from the un-free labor market on the island were Tommy Hilfiger USA, Gap, Calvin Klein and Liz Claiborne.
Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants — from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed, Murkowski wrote a bill to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas.”
Loose laws also have attracted casinos that pose a significant money laundering opportunity, as early on it was unclear if U.S. laws would apply. But Bloomberg and other news outlets have reported a raid that uncovers a stunning array of company directors:
FBI Visits Office of Saipan Casino Run by Trump Protege
March 30, 2017 3:20 PM
“Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation visited an office belonging to the operator of a casino on the remote U.S. island of Saipan that has attracted attention for its huge revenues, according to a local legislator and residents.
FBI personnel, accompanied by uniformed police officers, arrived Thursday morning at a local office used by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd., the Hong Kong-based company that owns the Best Sunshine Live casino, local residents said. They stayed for several hours, with local police blocking access to the building.
“There definitely was some kind of investigation or raid being done,” said Ed Propst, a member of the territorial legislature. “It appears to be a joint effort between local and federal authorities.”
“Saipan, an island of 50,000 residents closer to China than to Hawaii, relaxed rules on casinos in 2014 and soon awarded Imperial Pacific exclusive rights to open casinos there. The casino, run by an executive who cut his teeth in Atlantic City casinos then owned by Donald Trump, enlisted a slate of luminary overseers including former leaders of both the Republican and Democratic national parties in the U.S.”
“Its board members include James Woolsey, who ran the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1990s and was among national-security advisers to Trump’s presidential campaign. Former FBI director Louis Freeh and Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, sit on an advisory committee, as does Haley Barbour, the ex-Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chairman who’s now a prominent lobbyist.”
According to The Borneo Post, the board also included Eugene Sullivan, President Nixon’s lawyer in the Watergate affair.
Forbes reports the CEO of the operation is Mark Brown, who formerly ran several Trump casinos:
“During three decades in the casino business, Brown has worked with seminal figures in the industry, including Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, MGM’s Terry Lanni and a casino founder whose latest longshot bet appears to be paying off, Donald Trump.”
“I learned a lot from Donald Trump,” Brown says. “I learned a lot of how he operates, how he thinks, how he is in front of the camera, how he is behind the camera. So I know some is an act, some is the truth, some is spin. The guy doesn’t have billions by accident.”
And here is where it really gets interesting: Nobody can figure out how this casino processes so much money, here’s Casino.org:
Saipan Casino Reporting Major VIP Revenues, But Where Is All the Money Coming From?
November 15, 2016 By Samantha Beckett
The mystery of how a small, unassuming casino on Saipan, a tiny speck of an island in the middle of nowhere, could be outperforming the biggest resorts of Macau and Las Vegas, has been bugging everyone from Bloomberg to the US Treasury this week.
The oddly named Best Sunshine Live casino opened its doors only last year on Saipan, a US Commonwealth island in the West Pacific, around 1,600 miles east of the Philippines. Saipan is one of the United States’ remotest territories, with around 40,000 tourists per year visiting its shores, a figure dwarfed by Macau’s annual tourist influx of 2.4 million.
And yet, as Bloomberg noted this week, the daily reported revenue for each of its VIP tables is almost eight times the average of Macau’s largest casinos.
The casino claims its impressive revenue stream is sustained by no more than 100 or so high rollers. But considering it reported $3.9 billion in bets at the casino in September alone, this would require each high-roller to wager an average of $39 million for the month.
These figures have certainly raised some eyebrows down at the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is believed to be investigating. And well it might. Last year, FinCEN fined the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino on the island of Tinian, Saipan’s closest neighbor, a record $75 million, for repeated violations of anti-money laundering protocols.
And looking further, we see that an employee has blown the whistle on the company for money laundering – this from The Saipan Tribune:
Terminated employee alleges illegal practices
By Ferdie De La Torre | Posted on Dec 23 2016
Tag: AML, Best Sunshine Live, casino, Imperial Pacific International
“A terminated Best Sunshine International, Ltd. employee has alleged that the company is engaging in illegal practices but the company, which says it knows nothing about the complaint yet, said it will vigorously defend itself.
Danny Ewing, the former Best Sunshine Live casino vice president of table games, accused the company of illegal practices in a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court against Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, which operates Best Sunshine Live, a casino and training platform that trains casino workers to ultimately service its permanent casino, now being built in Garapan.
In a statement last night, Imperial Pacific International said the company has not been served with Ewing’s complaint and is unaware of his allegations.
“Nevertheless, the company respects Mr. Ewing’s decision to file suit. It is the company’s position that it follows all employment laws and regulations. As a result, the company will vigorously defend all lawsuits questioning its employment and business practices,” the statement adds.
Ewing, through William M. Fitzgerald, is suing Imperial Pacific for wrongful termination in violation of public policy (anti-money laundering standards and regulations), (Fair Labor Standards Act and Occupation Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations), (immigration violations); wrongful failure to hire; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Ewing is demanding unspecified damages.
Ewing claims to have worked in Las Vegas, Vietnam, and Tinian, before being employed by Imperial Pacific, for a total of more than 20 years in the gaming industry.
According to Fitzgerald in the complaint, Imperial Pacific recruited Ewing in 2015 to work as a director of table games and then promoted him on Nov. 30, 2015, as vice president of table games at the casino training facility in Garapan, before being terminated on Aug. 1, 2016.
Ewing claimed that Imperial Pacific allowed a customer to deposit $400,000 with the casino’s cashier without the required Anti-Money Laundering identification.
Fitzgerald said casinos are required to enact strict anti-money laundering programs, but failed to implement or enforce an adequate AML program.
He said Ewing complained to Imperial Pacific and told them that they must enact and follow an effective AML program.
Fitzgerald said Imperial Pacific ignored Ewing’s report and failed to take any action. He said Ewing’s complaints and reports of violations were ignored and he was told to cease his complaints and that if he communicated these complaints, he would be terminated.
The lawyer said Imperial Pacific terminated Ewing because he complained about and refused to participate in illegal acts.”
This has got to be some kind of example of regulatory capture to enable money laundering. It may even be an intelligence operation. Consider that a former CIA director, former FBI director, A governor and head of the RNC, another governor and head of the DNC, Richard Nixon’s attorney, and former New York governor David Patterson are all on the board of directors, this is one hot potato.