- By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Court sanctions construction firm involved in Saipan casino project
Construction workers stage a protest in front on the Imperial Pacific project site in this September 2017 file photo.
A China-based construction company involved in the Imperial Pacific International’s scandal-ridden casino resort project on Saipan has been held in contempt for failure to produce documents subject to the court’s discovery order.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Federal Judge Ramona Manglona of the District Court of the CNMI sanctioned Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, setting a fine of $2,000 per day until the company complies.
Issuing a final warning, Manglona said Gold Mantis has until Dec. 28 to comply or she would enter a default judgement.
Gold Mantis, a subcontractor for IPI, has been ordered to turn over its bank account and financial records, documents related to a China Ministry of Commerce’s visit to its Suzhou headquarters, and relevant messages from its employees' email and WeChat accounts.
Next week, the court is also scheduled to hear the plaintiffs' motion requesting a prison sentence for IPI’s interim CEO Donald Browne if IPI fails to comply with the order to pay $30,000 in attorneys' fees.
Gold Mantis is the subsidiary of a company traded on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. According to its profile, "the company is principally engaged in the design and construction of public buildings and residential buildings, including interior decoration, curtain wall, landscape, soft decoration, furniture and electromechanical equipment installation."
Gold Mantis is among the defendants in the $11.58-million lawsuit filed by seven Chinese workers, who claimed they were victims of forced labor and human trafficking.
IPI was also named defendants along with MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned conglomerate.
Gold Mantis and MCC were hired by IPI to build the casino resort building.
In August this year, the court unsealed a 71-count criminal indictment charging executives of IPI and MCC with a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, and international promotional money laundering.
Indicted on Aug. 1, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Liwen Wu, aka Peter Wu, Jianmin Xu, and Yan Shi, who hold executive positions with IPI and MCC International Saipan.
“The defendants are accused of utilizing criminal labor practices during ongoing construction of the Grand Mariana Casino Hotel and Resort on the island of Saipan,” states a press release from the Department of Justice. “The defendants are further alleged to have transferred over $24 million into the United States to promote their illegal activity.”
All three defendants are foreign nationals who currently reside outside of the United States. Upon returning to the United States, the individuals will be arrested, arraigned, and brought to trial in federal court.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Labor – Wage & Hour Division. Leshia Lee-Dixon of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malley are prosecuting the case.