March 8, 2006 — Bridge Capital, the St. Croix-based financial operation run by gambling promoter Shawn Scott, has received a major tax break from the newly elected governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
According to a local newspaper on Saipan, the Marianas Variety, Bridge Capital will receive the following tax benefits: no income tax, no business gross revenue tax, no excise tax; and no earnings tax for the next quarter of a century.
A rival newspaper reported, as did the Source, on Scott's many brushes with governmental regulators in the United States.
The Saipan Tribune wrote: "A Washington Post article published on July 22, 2004 labeled Scott as a 'gambling promoter' who was behind the much criticized proposal to set up gambling operations – slot machines — in the District of Columbia area. This resulted in D.C. residents filing a lawsuit opposing it."
This did not the faze the new CNMI administration. According to the Tribune, the director of CNMI's Commonwealth Development Authority, Glenn Quitugua, "expressed no worries over this issue, saying the board is 'satisfied' with the information presented by Bridge Capital."
The no-taxes-for-25-years arrangement was announced by the new CNMI Governor, Benigno R. Fitial, who was elected to that post in November. Several years earlier, when he was a member of the lower house of the local legislature, Fitial had been elected to the speakership following the intervention of two emissaries of the well-known Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. Abramoff's work on behalf of the CNMI garment industry, labeled "sweatshops" by its critics, and his intervention in the speakership contest were both covered in detail by the Washington Post.
Bridge Capital had previously announced plans to move its operations from the Virgin Islands to Saipan once the tax breaks were in place.
According to Bridge Capital, its primary business is "arranging high-yield, short-term, real estate-secured loans in excess of $1 million for customers who cannot borrow from traditional lending sources due to time constraints, risk, or complex arrangements," in other words, second and third mortgages.
The Variety reported that one element of the tax-breaks guarantee for Bridge Capital was its agreement to make annual contributions of at least $57,000 to local nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross, the CNMI Scholarship Program, and Karidat, a social services provider.
Bridge Capital, at last report, had 15 employees on St. Croix. Previous efforts to learn about the prospective fate of these workers in the move have been in vain.
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