OFFICIALS FINED FOR VIOLATING CNMI LABOR LAWS

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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (May 24, 1999 – PACNEWS)---The Department of Labor and Immigration in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has fined two employers a total of US$ 20,500 for alleged violations of labor laws involving alien Asian workers.

At the same time, an immigration supervisor, Linn Asper, awarded 12 displaced non-resident workers US$ 58,000 in two separate rulings for unpaid wages, illegal fees and other damages.

Asper issued the ruling against the owners of the Madecat Corp. and Darlene's Security Services, which closed down and abandoned workers.

According to Asper, Madecat collected medical, processing, airfare and "escort fees" from the non-resident workers in violation of existing labor laws.

Darlene's Security Services was found to have made illegal deductions. Guest workers employed were not paid for regular and overtime work performed, Asper said.

Both employers were barred from hiring new non-resident workers should they open a new business.

INVESTIGATION OF NORTHERN MARIANAS SMUGGLING WIDENED

By Cookie B. Micaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (May 24, 1999 – Saipan Tribune)---In yet another effort to clamp down on smuggling, the government has widened investigation of the illegal activity to include more employees of the Division of Customs. The stepped-up activity follows two officers being charged for alleged involvement in smuggling.

Customs officers Antonio S. Reyes and Benjamin S. Delos Reyes were charged Thursday with one count each of bribery and misconduct in public office after they allegedly received payoffs from smugglers for the illegal entry of taxable goods into Saipan.

If convicted, Reyes and Delos Reyes could face a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to $1,000 for the crimes, which allegedly took place on or about April 8, 1999.

In information filed by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in Superior Court, the two accepted bribe money from alleged smugglers in exchange for the release of such goods without being properly taxed.

According to Kevin Lynch, chief of the Criminal Division of the AGO, an investigation is still going on concerning people in customs who may have been involved in similar activities. However, he declined to identify the employees being probed by government investigators.

"We will continue to look into these matters until we're satisfied and we have discovered all the wrongdoing that has been going on," Lynch said in a phone interview Friday.

Lynch added, "We consider this to be a serious kind of crime because it involved persons with the Government and a breach of public's trust in its officials. We will not tolerate any criminal wrongdoing by public officials."

At this point, however, there is no indication yet whether there is an organized group within the customs office operating such illegal activity, he said. "I can say at this point this appears to be individuals acting on their own with two others. It does not appear to be a syndicate or a ring." Early this month, four people – all Korean nationals -- were charged with violating CNMI's customs laws after they attempted to bring in close to 2,000 cartons of undeclared cigarettes with the help of customs officers.

One of the suspects met with a customs officer, who was paid $750 to clear entry of the boxes of cigarettes, according to court documents.

In another incident, a customs officer was promised $450 by the suspects if he would facilitate the release of 1,000 cartons of smuggled cigarettes from South Korea.

According to Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio, the Department of Finance is working closely with the Attorney General's Office and its investigation unit to pin down customs personnel believed to be involved in big time smuggling.

The Tenorio administration hopes to curb smuggling as part of its campaign to raise revenues for the financially troubled Commonwealth.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

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