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  • By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Court clears claims against company in Saipan human trafficking case

Workers from China held a protest in front of the Imperial Pacific casino project alleging labor violation in this September 2017 file photo.

The District Court of the CNMI has signed a stipulation dismissing claims against Gold Mantis Construction Decoration following a settlement agreement between the company and workers from China who sued for labor violations.

Federal Judge Ramona Manglona signed the stipulation on Jan. 8, four days after both parties finalized their settlement.

Gold Mantis is among the defendants in the $11.58-million lawsuit filed by seven Chinese workers, who worked on the Saipan casino construction project. The workers alleged they were victims of forced labor and human trafficking.

Gold Mantis was subcontracted by Imperial Pacific International to build the casino resort complex on Saipan.

Imperial Pacific was also named defendants along with MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., a subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned conglomerate.

In June last year, Manglona issued a default judgment against Imperial Pacific, castigating the company for noncompliance with court orders.

Aaron Halegua

Aaron Halegua, the plaintiffs' attorney, said MCC is now the only remaining defendant in the three-year-old lawsuit.

Late last year, the court held Gold Mantis in contempt and imposed a daily $2,000 fine until it produced the requested emails, WeChats, and other evidence.

Back in 2017, one of MCC's managers pleaded guilty to the federal crimes of employing and harboring unauthorized workers. During a raid, the FBI also found hundreds of workers' passports being held in the MCC office, essentially a per se violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

In August last year, the court unsealed the 71-count indictment against three executives from IPI and MCC, who were charged with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, and international promotional money laundering.

"Thus, the evidence of wrongdoing is significant. In our civil case, MCC still has not produced any of the emails or WeChat accounts requested in discovery, so we expect to bring a motion to compel similar to the one we filed against Gold Mantis," Halegua said.

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