Just over a year and a half ago, Hong Kong’s Imperial Pacific International (IPI) put the crowning jewel on its newly built $3.9 billion Pacific Island casino resort. Namely, a pair of huge 200 feet Asian dragons suspended from the ceiling, with over 2 million Swarovski crystals for their scales.
Sadly, at the point of installation, the casino was already closed because of the COVID pandemic. The Imperial Palace Saipan casino resort opened in January 2020, closed in March 2020, and has not reopened since.
Now, in July 2021, US Marshals have been court-ordered to seize the lavish dragons – along with many of the other assets in the shuttered casino.
The Mariana Islands, near Guam in the Pacific Ocean, have been a US territory since 1986.
Hong Kong-based developer IPI faced a string of lawsuits and fines even before the project even opened.
Seven workers involved with the construction of the casino sued IPI at the beginning of 2020. In May, Mariana Islands District Court Judge Ramona Manglona decided the employees were due $5.43 million in compensation. Shortly after, IPI made over 100 staff redundant at the Imperial Palace Saipan – almost the entire casino workforce.
Reports have since emerged that IPI also owes a lot of money to other stakeholders involved in the project. The $15.5 million licensing fee and $20 million community funding pledge have both remained unpaid, leaving the local Mariana Islands district government out of pocket.
Since this news came out, shares in IPI have plummeted. They are now trading at less than $1 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Not only that, but IPI has also lost one of its long-term executive directors, Cui Li Jie, who resigned earlier this month.
Ms. Jie had actually been held in contempt of court during the IPI workers’ court case, which may have contributed to her departure.
Now, the company’s shiny new casino will be stripped of assets to pay off IPI’s dues. According to the court writ, marshals are now entitled to seize anything IPI owns in the casino, “including but not limited to: (1) all computer hardware, furniture and equipment, motor vehicles, and casino gaming machines identified in the ‘List of Assets’ filed by IPI’s attorney on March 3, 2021, and (2) the two crystal dragons hanging in the IPI casino that are identified in IPI’s March 8, 2021 filing in a different civil lawsuit that involved IPI.”
The US Marshals service is one of the oldest parts of the US law enforcement network. They protect judges and state politicians, criminal asset management, the iconic Witness Protection Program, and various other domestic services.
Exactly how many Marshals will be needed to remove a 200-foot crystal dragon from a remote island resort casino is still unclear.
The Imperial Palace itself is still under license in the Mariana Islands and could technically reopen once the outstanding license fees are paid. This was confirmed by the island’s Casino Control Commission to the media.
However, given that IPI reported a $363 million loss in 2020, and a large portion of the casino’s assets is about to be removed and sold off, it’s hard to see the company returning to this basically failed venture any time soon.
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