Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has filed an administrative request for the Superior Court in Saipan, to conduct a judicial review of the casino licence suspension order made by the Commonwealth Casino Commission.
The operator’s licence was suspended indefinitely back in April, after IPI failed to pay outstanding fees, including a $15.5m annual licence fee, an annual $3.1m regulatory fee and a $20m contribution to the community two years in a row (2018 and 2019).
The company was given six months since April to repay the money owed.
But now IPI argues that the Commission’s decision wasn’t fair, since its casino licence agreement excuses it from paying an annual fee in the event of a natural disaster.
IPI has turned to the court to determine whether the ongoing pandemic can be considered a natural disaster or force majeure.
“The licensee has filed a review with Superior Court in Saipan to determine whether the pandemic constitutes a natural disaster or force majeure,” read a statement. “If it is determined that the pandemic constitutes a natural disaster or force majeure, the licensee will not be required to pay the annual licence fee.”
IPI’s casino Imperial Pacific Saipan has remained closed since it first announced a temporary shutdown on 17 March 2020. The pandemic also hinders international travel, with Saipan suspending all international flights since 2020.
However, some of the fees the company needs to repay extend beyond the start of the pandemic.
Recently, IPI’s executive Cui Li Jie stepped down from her role as executive director and Chairman of the board of directors, amid allegations of hindering an investigation into the mistreatment of seven workers employed by IPI.