Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has lost another in a long line of lawsuits that jeopardizes the casino developer’s future. IPI has faced legal and regulatory issues for almost as long as it has been behind the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan, and doesn’t seem to learn from its previous mistakes. As IPI’s ability to stay afloat remains questionable, it is now adding more debt to the millions of dollars it already owes, with a federal judge ordering the company to pay $5.9 million as the result of a lawsuit brought against it by seven former construction workers who accused it of “slave labor” conditions.
IPI Treats Its Employees Like Dogs
The seven employees, Chinese nationals who were among a large group contracted to help with the expansion of the Imperial Palace, sued IPI for a number of labor infractions, including 12-hour workdays with no breaks, occasional 24-hour shifts, no medical treatment for injuries, lack of access to proper safety equipment and more. If they complained, the employees, who had to pay to travel to Saipan for the work, were threatened with deportation and, in some instances, death. One employee had a finger crushed and another was involved in an accident that burned his legs, and neither received medical treatment.
According to the lawsuit and the evidence supplied during the case, the “defendants arranged for the plaintiffs to enter Saipan as ‘tourists’ instead of under a lawful temporary work visa, took away their passports, instructed them to hide when government officials came to inspect the worksite or dormitories, and refused to take them to the hospital when they suffered injuries. A supervisor … threatened to kill the workers if they complained or disobeyed him. The casino also denied a federal safety inspector access to the worksite, despite reports of a high number of injuries.”
The employees sued IPI, along with two construction subcontractors, Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC and MCC International Saipan, Ltd. Federal Judge Ramona Manglona of the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) gave the plaintiffs a $5.9-million judgment this week, but reduced that amount to $5.4 million as Gold Mantis and MCC International had already settled with the employees.
IPI’s Future Uncertain
It has already been determined that IPI is incapable of properly managing the Imperial Palace, and the company is on the verge of losing its CNMI casino license. The company owes tens of millions of dollars to government entities and private contractors and has yet to show how it can cover its debt. IPI has been investigated by the FBI, the Department of Labor and other agencies, and several of its key executives have faced charges of racketeering, unlawful employment, money laundering, and more.
At this point, being forced out of the casino business would be in the best interest of the CNMI and the casino industry, but only if the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are guaranteed to receive the judgment. Attorneys Aaron Halegua, Bruce Berline, and Times Wang, who represented the plaintiffs, will make every effort to ensure compensation is received, and Halegua said in a statement, “We are pleased to see that the court recognizes the egregiousness of IPI’s conduct and the severity of the suffering that it caused our clients. This is an important decision because eradicating forced labor requires that perpetrators of such abuses face serious consequences.”