Imperial Pacific International, the Hong Kong-based developer, and owner of the Imperial Palace Casino on the US Pacific island of Saipan, has been ordered to pay seven former workers $5.43 million.
Chief Judge Ramona Manglona of the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory, handed down the ruling. Her decision was based on Imperial Pacific repeatedly failing to comply with court orders to exchange information regarding the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.
The former employees argued that they were subjected to working long hours in dangerous conditions while constructing the glitzy multibillion-dollar casino resort. They claimed they were threatened with deportation and even death, denied medical care for injuries they sustained and were paid less than required by law and the terms that they agreed upon.
Saipan Unfulfilled Promises
This week’s verdict from Judge Manglona is just the latest in the demise of the $3.9 billion integrated resort.
In 2017, the FBI raided the worksite after construction labor died in a fall. Several contractors fled, as a result, leaving behind thousands of unpaid Chinese construction workers who were there on work visas.
The Chinese workers were paid high recruitment fees to travel to Saipan on promises of good pay and living conditions. Those promises went unfulfilled. The four Chinese construction firms that were hired to build the sprawling resort instead refused to pay the promised wages, demanded longer working hours and threatened those who did not comply.
In 2018, the US ordered those four construction firms to pay 2,400 workers $14 million in back pay and damages.
The casino portion of the Imperial Palace resort has been closed since March of 2020. The Northern Marina Islands’ Commonwealth Casino Commission says Imperial Pacific has failed to pay its $15.5 million annual gaming license fee, $3.1 million regulatory charges, and did not contribute to the $20 million Community Benefit Fund in 2018 and 2019 as pledged.
The Associated Press says Imperial Pacific, nor reps at the casino, responded to inquiries about this week’s $5.4 million decision.
Workers Suffer Burns, Physical Injuries
While $5.43 million for seven people comes to around $775,000 each, the damage, the plaintiffs say, is forever done.
There is no amount of money that can compensate for the psychological trauma, in view of my current circumstances, and the level of injuries sustained,” one worker told the court.
Wang Tianmeng, one of the seven plaintiffs, said he suffered severe burns to his lower left leg when a spark ignited while he was cutting metal at the worksite. His supervisor, Wang claimed, wouldn’t allow him to seek medical treatment. He was instead handed some gauze.
A medical doctor testified that Wang’s injuries would not have resulted in permanent damage had he been provided immediate medical care. Wang says he now struggles to walk for more than 15 minutes at a time, and cannot find work in his field.
Each of the seven workers has since returned to China.
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