Imperial Pacific International lawsuit (re forced labour and human trafficking, Saipan, USA)
Snapshot: In 2019, seven Chinese construction workers filed a case at the Federal Court in Saipan to sue Imperial Pacific International and its contractors, MCC International Saipan Ltd and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, alleging forced labour and human trafficking claims in connection with a casino and resort construction project. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation for their pain and suffering as well as punitive damages. The case is ongoing.
Plaintiffs are seven Chinese constructions workers who were employed by Imperial Pacific International, MCC International Saipan Ltd, and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration to complete a casino construction project in Saipan. The workers allege defendants of requiring them to work for over 12 hours a day, offering no days off, paying below minimum wage, providing abysmal living quarters, and confiscating their passport, among other labour abuses.
In July 2019, when responding to a request from the Business & Human Rights resource Centre to comment on the case, Imperial Pacific stated that it “supports and strives to comply with all federal and local labor and safety laws and regulations aimed at protecting workers from harm and safeguarding their rights, including expecting our contractors to be compliant with these same laws and regulations”.
The plaintiffs are bringing suit under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) Anti-Trafficking Act. Among other allegations, workers accused the defendants of requiring them to work for long hours, paying below minimum wage, withholding a portion of their wages, providing substandard living quarters and confiscating their passports.
In March 2019, plaintiffs filed a case at the Federal Court in Saipan to sue Imperial Pacific International and its contractors, MCC International Saipan Ltd and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration.
In April 2019, following the investigations by the US Department of Labour into the labour violations on Imperial Pacific’s casino construction site, a consent judgement was filed in the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, under which Imperial Pacific will pay US$3.36 million in back wages, liquidated damages and civil monetary penalties.
In June 2019, the court denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims against them and allowed the case to proceed.
In May 2020, the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands found Imperial Pacific International in contempt of courts for failing to produce discovery that the court had previously ordered. Imperial Pacific has also been ordered to pay the attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs.
In June 2020, the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Ramona Manglona entered a default judgment against IPI for its failure to comply with discovery orders and sanctions. In July 2020, the plaintiffs sought a total of $11.58 million in compensatory damages. Imperial Pacific International said it is willing to pay all outstanding sanctions but would need time to do so.
In September 2020, U.S. federal prosecutors indicted three people involved with IPI's controversial casino project in Saipan for employing undocumented workers, making illegal money transfers, and participating in a criminal conspiracy.
In November 2020, the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Ramona Manglona issued a show cause order against Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC for not complying with a previous order regarding discovery in the lawsuit of seven workers. CNMI was later held in contempt for failure to produce documents subject to the court’s discovery order.
In January 2021, CNMI came to a settlement with the seven construction workers. CNMI also asked the court to vacate the status conference in the case that is set for January 11.
In February 2021, Federal Judge Ramona Manglona held Ciu Li Jie in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena. Ms. Jie is the chairwoman of Imperial Pacific International.
In May 2021, Chief Judge Ramona Manglona issued a default judgment against Imperial Pacific International for forcing the Chinese workers to toil in “extreme, dangerous and inhumane work conditions” on the casino construction site. The judge ordered IPI to pay the workers $2.9 million in compensatory damages and the same amount in punitive damages, offset by the amount paid to the plaintiffs in settlements with other defendants.
Company response: “Response by Imperial Pacific International”, 14 July 2019