Workers formerly employed to build a casino venue on the Pacific island of Saipan are suing the group behind the Imperial Pacific Resort property (pictured in a file image), alleging that they were victims of human trafficking and used as forced labour, Reuters reports.
The news agency said on Friday that seven Chinese construction workers were suing developers involved in the Imperial Pacific Resort and two of its contractors in a court on Saipan, part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States possession in the western Pacific Ocean.
It is unclear which corporate entity the workers have targeted; the Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd of Hong Kong; its subsidiary that manages the casino resort, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC; or another connected group.
The Reuters account said the plaintiffs were seeking unspecified monetary compensation for pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
The plaintiffs reportedly alleged: that they were made to work more than 12 hours a day and sometimes do a 24-hour shift; that their employers withheld some of their wages; and that their employers often failed to pay them for weeks at a time. They also alleged that they were crammed into dormitories, often without showers or air conditioning, and that the construction site was extremely dangerous.
Neither the developer nor the contractors responded immediately to requests by Reuters for comment.
The Imperial Pacific Resort is a delay-plagued project on Saipan undertaken by Imperial Pacific International. The developer had at one stage pledged to the local authorities to open a portion of the hotel accommodation at the casino resort by March 2017.
Subsequently the promoter was permitted to open the casino on the resort site in July 2017, prior to the hotel being completed. The Saipan casino regulator issued in August last year a February 2021 deadline for what was termed the initial phase of the resort.
In February this year, the Saipan Tribune newspaper quoted the developer as saying building work on the “initial gaming facility” would be completed in 2019, although fewer than 300 construction workers were employed on the site.
Last Friday, Imperial Pacific International Holdings issued a profit warning, saying it expected to swing from annual profit in 2017 to a loss for the year to December 31, 2018. The group’s 2017 annual profit was HKD637.5 million (US$81.2 million), 32-percent less than the group’s 2016 profit.
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