USA: "Many" Chinese construction workers on Saipan island were reportedly injured or died building Imperial Pacific casinos; company denies allegations

"...At a…Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd...construction site [on the American island of Saipan], it was building a gargantuan casino with a crew of hundreds of Chinese, scores of them working illegally on tourist visas. So many laborers were getting hurt that [Doctor] Rohringer’s colleagues began keeping an unofficial spreadsheet, separate from standard hospital record...

Imperial Pacific has said that it had no knowledge of safety violations or workers being employed illegally and that both were the responsibility of its contractors. But these claims don’t withstand much scrutiny. The contractors’ office was rented by Imperial Pacific and, according to a former employee who worked there, shared with its staff. Additionally, a safety expert who worked on the construction site told me that Imperial Pacific was deeply involved with selecting and supervising contractors."...

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Article
14 February 2018

A Chinese Casino Has Conquered a Piece of America

Author: Matthew Campbell, Bloomberg Businessweek

...At a…Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd...construction site [on the American island of Saipan], it was building a gargantuan casino with a crew of hundreds of Chinese, scores of them working illegally on tourist visas. So many laborers were getting hurt that [Doctor] Rohringer’s colleagues began keeping an unofficial spreadsheet, separate from standard hospital record...The dead man Rohringer saw…was a builder…plummeted from a scaffold. His colleagues hadn’t called 911; instead, they’d pulled the work clothes off his broken body in a clumsy attempt to obscure his identity…

…Imperial Pacific has made millions of dollars in payments to family members of the territory’s governor, Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres…In a written response to questions from Bloomberg Businessweek, Imperial Pacific said it has “strived and [is] committed to comply with local and federal laws” and that it “categorically denies” impropriety in its dealings with the government. Torres’s office said that all changes to laws or policies were undertaken “with the intent of achieving economic growth within the boundaries of the law.”...

Last May, after Imperial Pacific requested permission for its “soft opening,” a special body appointed to supervise the development delivered a scathing private report to Governor Torres. According to a person who saw the document, it warned about metal debris scattered on the casino roof, which could turn into deadly projectiles in one of the typhoons that regularly batter the island; structural steel that appeared to be missing bolts; and columns with kinks that could indicate a risk of catastrophic collapse. The report urged Torres to keep the public out until Imperial Pacific could guarantee safety. But the governor rejected the advice, according to the person familiar with the report. The government later removed the supervisory body’s oversight. (The governor’s office told Bloomberg Businessweek it was assured by engineers the site was safe; Imperial Pacific said it complied with all building regulations.)

...[F]ederal prosecutors acting on FBI investigations charged several employees of the contracting companies building the casino with immigration violations; some pleaded guilty. Separately, a U.S. Department of Labor inspector said in a court declaration that the rate of injuries on the site “greatly exceeds the national average.” The inspector described one worker arriving at the ER with a broken back and a doctor advising immediate hospitalization. But someone intervened. “The injured person was not allowed to be admitted, and was promptly transported” to China.

Imperial Pacific has said that it had no knowledge of safety violations or workers being employed illegally and that both were the responsibility of its contractors. But these claims don’t withstand much scrutiny. The contractors’ office was rented by Imperial Pacific and, according to a former employee who worked there, shared with its staff. Additionally, a safety expert who worked on the construction site told me that Imperial Pacific was deeply involved with selecting and supervising contractors.

The expert described the job as one of the most challenging of his career, with widespread dangers. Generators weren’t properly grounded, workers were missing basic equipment such as safety glasses and correct footwear, and welders lacked anything like the necessary training to handle torches. Once, he said, he was forced to compress a three-hour safety briefing into one hour. His job included ensuring compliance with U.S. regulations, and he said Imperial Pacific ignored three written pleas to stop work. (The company disputed this.) Eventually he quit.

Imperial Pacific has said it’s now confident that construction workers are legally employed and that its site is complying with safety rules. Yet gruesome injuries continued after the FBI action. In late September a worker received a severe electric shock, almost losing a limb. A video of the aftermath shows him writhing on the ground next to the casino, screaming. Although most of the undocumented workers were flown home after the FBI arrests, a group of about 35 initially refused to leave, saying they hadn’t been paid as promised…

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Article
18 February 2018

Imperial Pacific issues statement on Bloomberg article

Author: Imperial Pacific (on Marianas Variety)

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC repudiates all allegations of wrongdoing published by Bloomberg in its Feb. 15, 2018 article.

Imperial Pacific reassures the public that it strives for nothing less than full compliance with all laws and regulations of the CNMI and the United States. Moreover, Imperial Pacific remains steadfast about meeting its obligations to contribute to the development of the gaming and resort industries in the CNMI. Even more importantly, Imperial Pacific is committed to becoming a good corporate citizen and community member, and is equally grateful to its employees, their families, the private and public sectors, and the people of the CNMI for their work and support...

Imperial Pacific believes that the article is just another enumeration of false claims similar to those in similar Bloomberg articles involving Imperial Pacific. It is apparent that the article was written to attack Imperial Pacific, its owners and agents, the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the CNMI government and its leaders, and individual members of the CNMI community.

Imperial Pacific is concerned about Bloomberg’s actions to undermine confidence in the casino gaming industry, the company, its dedicated employees, and the people of the CNMI. Defending against fake-news-like attacks or tactics from global media is difficult.

Nonetheless, Imperial Pacific remains dedicated to the CNMI, and Imperial Pacific will explore all legal remedies available at law and take legal action where warranted.

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Article
26 June 2018

Hong Kong: Imperial Pacific sues Bloomberg & its reporters over articles critical of its Saipan casino-resort construction & operations

"Imperial Pacific sues Bloomberg, 2 reporters", 11 June 2018

BLOOMBERG L.P.  and two of its reporters have been sued in Hong Kong by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. and its subsidiary Imperial Pacific (CNMI) LLC. The High Court of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s Court of First Instance has issued a writ of summons to Bloomberg L.P., the New York- based business and market-news organization The news organization was named first defendant in the lawsuit. Its reporters Matthew Campbell and K. Oanh Ha were named second and third defendants. Asked for comment, Imperial Pacific said it will “defer  comment about the on-going defamation lawsuit filed in Hong Kong to the parties in that jurisdiction.” Variety was unable to get a comment from Bloomberg... Bloomberg has been posting news articles critical of Imperial Pacific which is constructing a casino-resort on Saipan. In March, Bloomberg reported that the casino operator was “raided by U.S. agents” which IPI denied. In its latest Hong Kong Stock Exchange financial declaration, IPI said it has already spent an estimated $650 million in connection with the design, engineering, construction materials and labor for its Saipan casino-resort project.

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Article
26 June 2018

Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd under alleged investigation by U.S. Federal agents

Author: Matthew Campbell & K Oanh Ha, Bloomberg (USA)

"Saipan Casino Operator Raided by U.S. Agents", 15 Mar 2018

U.S. federal agents raided a Saipan office of Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd... [I]nvestigators took documents from the office, said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss a non-public matter... In a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange Thursday, Imperial Pacific said “there was no raid by U.S. agents on any of its offices, its casino, or buildings.”...Since arriving on Saipan in 2014, the company has become the dominant force on the island... It has made millions of dollars in payments to Governor Ralph Torres’s extended family... The governor and his relatives have said they have not acted improperly.  It’s not clear what the aim of last week’s raid was, but it was at least the second time that U.S. law-enforcement officials have made inquiries related to Imperial Pacific’s casino project in Saipan.[I[ March 2017. U.S. prosecutors...  charged several employees of Imperial Pacific construction contractors with offenses related to using undocumented labor. Some pleaded guilty. Imperial Pacific said at the time that it had no knowledge of workers being employed illegally.

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Article
14 March 2019

Chinese construction workers sue Saipan casino and its Chinese contractors for forced labor scheme in U.S. federal court

Author: Aaron Halegua

15 March 2019

Press Release:

...Seven Chinese construction workers, who labored on the Imperial Pacific casino and resort project in Saipan, part of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (“CNMI”), have amended their lawsuit in the federal district court there to allege that they were victims of a forced labor scheme.... 

...It is alleged that, “Plaintiffs were required to work over 12 hours per day without any rest day, and sometimes were forced to work a 24-hour shift. Even though Plaintiffs’ pay rate was already below the legal minimum wage, their employers systematically withheld a portion of their earned wages and often failed to pay them anything for weeks at a time. Plaintiffs were crammed into dormitories, some of which had no showers or air-conditioning. Their supervisors yelled and cursed at them, and forced them to pay fines if they did not work hard enough or arrived late. The Imperial Pacific construction site was also extremely dangerous. The injury incidence rate exceeded the national average as untrained and inexperienced workers were pushed to work around-the-clock while basic safety precautions were ignored.”

 ...As for Imperial Pacific, the First Amended Complaint alleges, “Imperial Pacific knew about or, at a minimum, recklessly disregarded its contractors’ exploitative and illegal practices…. However, rushing to complete the project, rather than remedy the situation, Imperial Pacific and its contractors sought to conceal their illegal scheme from government authorities, medical providers, and any other party that might hold them accountable. Imperial Pacific and its contractors denied entry to an investigator from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration …who came to inspect safety conditions on the worksite. The unauthorized Chinese workers were also told to hide when government inspectors did come to the worksite or dormitories.”...

 

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Article
16 March 2019

Hong Kong owner of Pacific island casino sued over forced labor, trafficking claims

Author: Farah Master, Reuters

15 March 2019

Seven Chinese construction workers made the claim...to the Federal Court in Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands.

They are seeking unspecified monetary compensation for pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

...The filing, which names Imperial Pacific as well as its contractors, MCC International Saipan Ltd and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, alleges workers were required to work more than 12 hours a day and sometimes do a 24-hour shift.

It also accuses employers of withholding a portion of their wages and claims they often failed to pay them for weeks at a time.

...The filing states Imperial Pacific knew about, or at a minimum, "recklessly disregarded its contractors' exploitive and illegal practices" and that the company was repeatedly told about the use of unauthorized workers on the construction site.

Crammed into dormitories, often with no showers or air-conditioning, plaintiffs were made to work on a construction site that was extremely dangerous, it said.

"One Gold Mantis supervisor, who had already physically beaten another employee, threatened to kill plaintiffs if they disobeyed him," it said in the filing.

All plaintiffs suffered injuries including a badly burnt leg, scalded hand and partially severed finger, according to the filing.

 

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Article
29 April 2019

USA: Imperial Pacific Intl. agrees to pay US$3.36 million for labour violations

Author: Inside Asian Gaming

“Imperial Pacific to pay US$3.36 million fine for labor violations”, 12 April 2019

Imperial Pacific International will pay US$3.36 million in back wages, liquidated damages and civil monetary penalties to the US Department of Labor following the latter’s investigations into labor violations on the site of IPI’s under-construction Saipan integrated resort.

The violations, committed by IPI’s contractors, relate to a failure to pay minimum wages or overtime and to maintain satisfactory records during a near two-year period from January 2016 to December 2017. The consent judgement, filed in the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, was signed this week by IPI Chairwoman Cui Li Jie, according to a report by Marianas Variety. Under the judgement, IPI will also “amend [its] payroll practices and require all contractors to amend and maintain their payroll practices by paying all employees an hourly rate in compliance with minimum wage and overtime provision of the labor law.”…

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