Affiliated Scholar Aaron Halegua's Ongoing Legal Work in Saipan

Affiliated Scholar Aaron Halegua’s work on a lawsuit dealing with claims of forced labor/human trafficking of Chinese men while constructing a Saipan casino continues to be featured in the news. Below is an article from the Financial Times. It was also covered in Reuters, The Telegraph, Guam Daily Post, and the local Saipan papers and TV station.

Chinese workers sue Saipan casino over forced labor scheme
March 14, 2019

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (AP) — Seven Chinese men allege in a lawsuit that they were victims of a forced labor scheme while constructing a Saipan casino.

The casino and its contractors violated U.S. trafficking laws by exploiting the workers, the lawsuit said. Saipan is part of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The lawsuit was filed in December. It was amended Friday to add trafficking claims and to include casino owner Imperial Pacific as a defendant.

Representatives for Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific and the contractors named in the lawsuit couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, the men were subjected to 12-hour workdays, dormitories without showers or air-conditioning and a dangerous construction site.

“Their supervisors yelled and cursed at them, and forced them to pay fines if they did not work hard enough or arrived late,” the lawsuit said. Imperial Pacific knew about, or “recklessly disregarded” the exploitation by their contractors, the lawsuit said: “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 party that might hold them accountable.”

U.S. officials announced $14 million in settlements last year with Chinese construction firms building the casino after finding workers were paid less than required.

“Many foreign migrant workers suffer injuries and endure abuse, but have no access to a remedy,” said Aaron Halegua, a New York attorney helping represent the construction workers. “Fortunately, because these events occurred in a U.S. Commonwealth, the plaintiffs are protected under U.S. law.”