December 5, 2012
|Republican lobbyist Jason Osborne, Governor Fitial, Senator John McCain, |
Angel Demapan in Senate pushing for shipyard legislation June 2011.
Not only does investor and Saipan Development LLC backer Kenneth Mahmood have the chutzpah to show up on Saipan to defend a truly questionable contract, but he is advising the people of the CNMI that they should not impeach the corrupt governor, Benigno Fitial. (Read the Saipan Tribune, Best Possible Deal or watch him on KSPN.)
Mahmood, a former felon, is not a resident of the CNMI, but an opportunist who worked to arrange at least one backdoor deal with former fugitive Attorney General Edward Buckingham and corrupt Governor Fitial.
His reasoning for not wanting the impeachment of Fitial? He claims that Fitial only has two more years and investors would stay away if impeachment proceedings advance. Really? Would investors be attracted to a place where some of the Governor's political appointees are criminals or former criminals; where the governor's former attorney general is a fugitive from justice; where the governor thinks he is above the law and runs the islands like a third-world dictator? Would any legitimate business want to invest in a place where the acting Commissioner of Police Ambrosio Ogumoro is arrested (again); where former criminals are hired to be police officers; where the Department of Public Safety ignores crimes, but serves as the governor's personal thug squad? Would anyone want to invest in a place where the governor is involved in numerous sleazy, backdoor deals and election irregularities; where the only hospital is on the verge of bankruptcy; the retirement fund is collapsing and the economy is at rock bottom?
Please. The impeachment will not deter investment, but keeping a corrupt governor in office could.
Kenneth Mahmood is the brother of David Mahmood, owner of Alligiance Capital Corp. David Mahmood and his long-time friend, David Kurtz of Keystone Shipping, hastily formed Saipan Development LLC to land a secretive $190 million sole-source CNMI power plant contract. The contract was signed by Governor Fitial and former CNMI Attorney General, now fugitive, Edward Buckingham. There were no public hearings before the deal was sealed.
Who is Kenneth Mahmood? From Unheard No More's August 17, 2012 post, Sickeningly Predictable:
This certain "Kenneth" is said to be Kenneth Mahmood, a partial owner of Allegiance Capitol Corp. Mahmood appears to be a sketchy guy who has criminal records in both Texas and Washington state. Another article details a questionable transaction with a casino company that involved a floating casino that offered prostitutes. Then there is this Anchorage Daily News article about "con man" Kenneth Mahmood. This is from the Seattle Times:
A "charming" man police once considered the region's top con artist is now a member of a different elite: the Seafair Commodores.
Kenneth Mahmood, sentenced to 10 years in prison for theft and fraud in a phony oil deal in 1983, surprised law-enforcement officials recently when he was interviewed on a local radio station as a representative of Seafair.
"He's the best con man I ever worked on, and I worked on a bunch of them," said King County Police Maj. Larry Mayes.
Apparently Fitial was "charmed" by Mahmood. In 2009 Mahmood proposed a dry dock and facilities repair company to the Commonwealth Ports Authority. He claimed that it would bring in $100 million in revenue a year. A 25-year lease was being drafted between Allegiance and the CPA according to an April 2009 Saipan Tribune article:
Allegiance Capital Corp. is looking to invest millions of dollars into the CNMI in line with the company's project with the military.
The whole seaplane ramp area in Lower Base is currently the site of a submarine station, a restaurant, and the holding area for Tinian boats, as well as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.'s Power Plant 1, the main power plant on Saipan.
“I told them I'd only move CUC if they paid for a new power plant. Guess what? They're looking into it,” Fitial said at a news briefing last week.
A 25-year lease agreement is being drafted between the Allegiance Capital Corp. and the CNMI government, according to a source close to the project.
This 25 year CUC contract may be connected to this 25 year land lease by Allegiance. Another April 2009 Saipan Tribune article states that Allegiance is interested in "paying for a new power plant" as part of the project.The contract that Fitial and Buckingham signed behind closed doors with Saipan Development LLC (Allegiance Capital + Keystone Shipping = Saipan Development LLC) does not mention a shipyard repair facility, but both Kenneth Mahmood and Republican lobbyist Jason Osborne claim that the deal involves a future shipyard to be constructed on public land.
U.S. law would have to be changed to allow the CNMI a shipyard to repair U.S. vessels. Since there is no legislation, why would a deal be made that includes one? Is Osborne a psychic lobbyist?
Osborne has been lobbying the U.S. Congress to have the law changed to permit shipyard facility repairs of U.S. vessels in the CNMI. Who has been paying him for his lobbying efforts? Is it Allegiance, Keystone, Shipping or the Fitial Administration?
Osborne was also a campaign consultant for Fitial and was hired as a consultant in Joe Camacho's questionable campaign for the U.S. Delegate seat, according to KSPN News. That campaign resulted in several investigations for violating campaign law, including one for violating the Hatch Act. How much was Osborne paid for that job and who paid him?
In a KSPN interview, the lobbyist also claimed that he did advance work for Fitial and the CNMI Delegation for the Tampa GOP Convention. The lobbyists implied that he was not paid for his efforts, and did the work to ensure that the delegation "had a good time." Conflict of interest much?
The Republican lobbyist also defended the $190 million deal in the KSPN interview. It appears that like Mahmood, Osborne is an opportunist. He formerly worked for the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-ALASKA), an Abramoff-connected Senator who was under investigation for his own dirty deals. As a lobbyist Osborne has represented Fitial, Allegiance Capital, and Guam's Abramoff-connected lobbyist Juan Carlos Benitez (Read this post for background on Benitiez: Unheard No More!) This sole-source contract appears to get dirtier by the minute.
Is the reason that the Mahmood-Osborne team does not want to see Fitial impeached because their financial interest in the $190 million contract would likely end if the governor left office? After all, what other elected official would sell out the CNMI to push through a deal that appears to benefit the investors and stick it to the people of the CNMI?
Well, perhaps one. Since Mahmood and Osborne have appeared on Saipan, Rota Senator Juan Ayuyu has been meeting with them behind closed doors. Senator Juan Ayuyu originally backed Senate Resolution 17-94 that requested that the Fitial Administration stop any further action on this contract until a proper study could be conducted. Yet, now he appears to be entertaining the parties connected to the questionable sole-source deal.
In August 2012 the Saipan Tribune reported.
Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota), chair of the Senate Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications, separately said yesterday there are a lot of unanswered questions about the contract, that even CUC could not provide the answers.
“The $190-million contract is not stipulated in the governor's emergency order. Having that contract does not address the emergency situation now,” he said.Perhaps the senator just wanted to get some facts, but some are suggesting that Ayuyu is switching allegiance because the governor is considering another deal that would provide ferry services between Rota and Guam. (Reminds me of the Mendiola-Abramoff-Fitial infrastructue deals made to ensure Fitial got the speakership.)
As if this entire sleazy deal hasn't been enough of a soap opera, now Senator Ayuyu has reportedly threatened to kill Rep Janet Maratita.
Apparently the Senator was irate over a two-page letter that Rep. Maratita sent to him requesting that he stop meeting with Mahmood and Osborne. Rep. Maratita is also asking the Superior Court to hold Governor Fitial and Saipan Developmental LLC in contempt and requesting that they be fined up to $10,000 daily for violating the court-issued temporary restraining order prohibiting them from pursuing and/or performing on the sole-source $190.8-million contract. The deal is obviously being pursued as meetings with Fitial, Osborne, Mahmood and some legislators, including Ayuyu, indicate.
On December 4, 2012, Senator Ayuyu reportedly called Maritita's attorney, Ramon Quichocho and threatened to kill his client, Janet Maratita. The attorney called the police to report the incident
The F.B.I. is now investigating the death threats. In October 2012, Senator Ayuyu was arrested for smuggling fruit bats, an endangered species. He was released with a $20,000 unsecured bond. One condition of his release was: “The defendant shall not violate federal, state, or local law while on release.”
The U.S. Court has set a hearing to consider revocation of his pre-trial release.
The motion for a hearing states:
On December 4, 2012, an officer from the CNMI Department of Public Safety responded to a possible disturbing the peace incident at the Law Office of Ramon K. Quichocho.
Upon arriving at the scene, the officer met with Mr. Quichocho and Ms. Janet Ulloa Maratita.
Mr. Quichocho stated that at around 3:45 p.m., he received a call on his cellular telephone from Defendant, during which Defendant repeatedly threatened to “kill” Ms. Maratita. Ms. Maratita was able to hear Defendant’s threats because Mr. Quichocho had activated his speakerphone. The call lasted approximately eighteen (18) minutes.
The responding officer documented in the report that Ms. Maratita “looked nervous and seemed scared.”
On December 5, 2012, Mr. Quichocho and Ms. Maratita were both interviewed by F.B.I. Special Agent Todd Price, during which they recounted the aforementioned events.
Special Agent Price also noted that Maratita appeared “troubled” and “agitated” during the interview and it looked as if “she had been crying.”The hearing will determine whether Senator Ayuyu violated the following local laws while on pretrial release: disturbing the peace, in violation of 6 CMC § 3101, and assault, in violation of CMC § 1201. If it is determined that he has violated these laws, his pretrial release will likely be revoked.
Both Osborne and Kenneth Mahmood have been subpoenaed to testify at a deposition. This is in connection with the taxpayer lawsuit. The Superior Court issued a restraining order prohibiting the company from pursuing the deal, but pursue they do. . .