Torres granted 241 – mostly republican cronies – average of $43.5K in public funds; Castro’s emails with Bank of Saipan suspicious

A preliminary review of the documents submitted by Secretary of Finance David Atalig, Jr. to the CNMI House joint investigative committee shows Gov. Ralph Torres has given away more than $10,490,000 to 241 businesses. That is an average of $43,526.97 granted by the Building Optimism, Opportunities and Stability Together (BOOST) program, which is federally funded. Most of the owners of these companies are republican cronies of the governor, according to multiple sources of information.

Kandit asked joint committee co-chairwoman, Rep. Celina Roberto Babauta, to confirm the details. She and the committee are unable to divulge details prior to the resumption of hearings, which are anticipated next week, when administration officials and bankers respond to subpoenas.

Suspicious emails between Bank of Saipan and Wil Castro

Wil Castro

“Of the five subpoena duces tecum served upon the Bank of Guam, the Bank of Saipan, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Finance, and the Office of the Governor through the Chief of Staff that have been served,” Ms. Babauta said. “We have received a list from the Secretary of Finance, Mr. David Atalig and a more detailed list from the Bank of Saipan. What is most telling is the communications between the Chief of Staff and Bank of Saipan officials.”

She continued, “The Offices of Chairman Donald Manglona and my office are now processing the documents to scan and distribute it to members of both committees in preparation of the Joint meeting called for on December 16, 2022. At this time, we are unable to disclose any information because we have not vetted any witness testimony that have been summoned to appear before the joint committee.”

Ms. Babauta, however, did confirm that according to Mr. Atalig’s list, 241 businesses were paid $10,490,000. She also confirmed certain businesses received up to $250,000 a piece.

Some businesses, according to a confidential source, have submitted multiple applications. So, while (as an example) ‘Company A’ was granted and already received $250,000, Company A has three pending applications that conceivably could net that business a million dollars in free money.

Prior to the runoff election, the House Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, along with the Ways and Means Committee began an inquiry into the BOOST program following a refusal by Torres administration officials to answer questions about the awarding of funds. Those questions arose from reports that Gov. Torres was using the program – fueled by federal funds – to promise grants in exchange for votes.
That investigation continues by the joint committee, with subpoenas commanding documents from the program and the appearances of the program’s bankers, administrator, and two cabinet secretaries involved with the funding and administration of the program. Also subpoenaed was governor’s chief of staff, Wil Castro, who is a former Guam republican senator.
“They went totally silent after losing the run off,” Rep. Ed Propst told Kandit. “It just proves how this BOOST program was all about getting the governor reelected. And when they failed that they stopped all marketing associated with the BOOST program.”
Mr. Castro, the secretaries of finance and commerce, a commerce employee, and three bankers are expected to appear in the House chamber on December 16 to answer for the program’s activities and, it appears now, inactivity.


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