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Commissioner acknowledges ‘prejudice’ in IPI case, lawyer claims company has no money


Two developments surrounding Commissioner Martin Mendiola and Attorney Michael Chen have made headlines this week. In a recent session of the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC), Martin Mendiola delivered a candid assessment of his stance regarding the fate of Imperial Pacific International’s (IPI) gaming license in the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

Amidst ongoing deliberations, Mendiola emphasized his commitment to prioritizing the CNMI’s long-term interests, acknowledging his inherent bias towards achieving the best outcome for the region’s future prosperity.

Commissioner Martin Mendiola, CNMI, IPI, Imperial Pacific International
Commissioner Martin Mendiola, CNMI

Reflecting on his imminent departure from the commission and the complexity of the decision-making process, Mendiola underscored the need for constructive dialogue and clear objectives in ongoing settlement discussions with CCC executive director Andrew Yeom and IPI. Expressing cautious optimism about the potential for a resolution, Mendiola reiterated the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability throughout the proceedings.

Meanwhile, voices from within and outside the CCC highlighted diverse perspectives on the issue. Representative Marissa Renee Flores urged decisive action in light of IPI’s financial obligations and operational shortcomings, advocating for the revocation of IPI’s license. However, former Development Plan Advisory Committee consultant James Chua offered a nuanced critique, attributing the challenges faced by IPI to systemic issues and unrealistic project expectations imposed by the CNMI government.

As the debate unfolds, key stakeholders grapple with the complexities of balancing legal obligations, economic considerations, and public welfare. While concerns persist regarding IPI’s compliance and operational viability, Commissioner Mendiola’s unwavering focus on the CNMI’s economic resilience underscores the imperative of charting a path forward that serves the region’s best interests.

In the face of mounting pressure and competing interests, the CCC faces a pivotal moment in determining the fate of IPI’s license. As deliberations continue, stakeholders remain vigilant, cognizant of the far-reaching implications of their decisions on the CNMI’s economic future and social fabric.

Elsewhere, Attorney Michael Chen’s recent statements to the federal court shed light on the financial woes of IPI. Chen revealed that IPI is grappling with a dire financial situation, devoid of income and lacking funds in its bank accounts.

In response to a petition from Joshua Gray, a former director of operations at IPI, seeking compliance with a court order, IPI has refuted the allegations. Gray, who successfully sued IPI for racial discrimination and wrongful termination, was awarded substantial compensatory and punitive damages by the federal court.

Chen detailed the challenges faced by IPI since the closure of its casino operations in March 2020, highlighting the company’s struggle to secure funds for basic operational expenses. Despite these hardships, IPI has endeavored to fulfill its obligations, albeit with limited resources.

Moreover, Chen emphasized that certain court orders have not been complied with by Clear Management, the court-appointed limited receiver overseeing IPI’s assets. He stressed that IPI has made every effort to adhere to court directives, even borrowing funds to meet security requirements at the Imperial Pacific Resort.

IPI was recently mandated by Hong Kong’s High Court to wind up, calling into question whether any of its efforts to maintain its casino license will bear fruit.

Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel is an online gambling industry veteran with over twenty years of experience in Europe and Asia. Equally at home in the Isle of Man and the Philippines, he started his career as a sports trader before setting up and running whole operations, and more recently focusing on the regulatory and licensing side of things in the worlds of fiat and crypto eGaming. When he is not writing about gambling topics, he can be found cycling around Manila and advocating sustainable transport solutions for a Philippines based mobility magazine.