FBI Makes Arrest Related to Saipan Casino Construction

  • Worker recently died on Imperial Pacific casino site
  • Probe related to allegations of federal work visa violation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested one person in connection with the death of a construction worker at Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.’s casino on the remote U.S. island of Saipan, according to an agency spokeswoman.

“The FBI conducted a search and made an arrest in response to the recent death of an individual working at the construction site of the Imperial Pacific Resort,” Michele Ernst, a spokeswoman in the FBI’s Honolulu field office, said in an email Friday. “The investigation is related to allegations of a federal violation of the workplace visa system, including reports the company was systematically harboring individuals who are out of status and in violation of federal statutes."

The bureau’s statement comes after a legislator and local residents said FBI agents and local law enforcement on Thursday visited an office used by Imperial Pacific, staying for several hours and blocking access to the building.

"Having made all reasonable inquiries, the board of directors of the Company hereby clarifies and declares that the investigation into the relevant construction accident of Saipan external construction team conducted by U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, is not related to the Group and its employees," Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific said in an exchange statement on Sunday.

Local media reported on March 23 that a 43-year-old Chinese national had fallen to his death from a scaffold on the nearby site of the company’s planned casino resort, which will replace a temporary facility currently in use.

The FBI "routinely partners with federal agencies when there are reports of widespread and systematic human trafficking within the labor sector," Ernst said.

Imperial Pacific has been sued multiple times since it opened the gaming facility in late 2015 on Saipan, including a lawsuit in December by a former executive accusing it of violating money-laundering rules. In mid-March, a district court judge for the territory scheduled a settlement conference for the case, Marianas Variety reported.

Chaired by Mark Brown, a former executive in President Donald Trump’s Atlantic City casino business, Imperial Pacific has assembled a group of high-powered former U.S. political figures as directors or advisers.

It has attracted attention in the gaming industry for posting per-table revenues in Saipan that are far in excess of those at the largest resorts in Macau, Asia’s gambling capital. The company has said those volumes are accounted for partly by Chinese high-rollers who make the five-hour trip to the island to bet millions of dollars at a time, and that it complies with all relevant anti-money-laundering and financial reporting rules.

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— With assistance by Daniela Wei

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