Palau Governor, 3 Others Charged In Human Trafficking, Prostitution Case

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Karaoke bar allegedly facilitated prostitution, abused employees

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Jan. 3, 2014) – The Office of the Attorney General on Monday disclosed that charges have been filed against ATT Karaoke Bar and Disco Owner Mary Grace Baconga, local sponsors Jeryl Blas and Haruo Esang and Peleliu Gov. Temmy Shmull on December 20 pursuant to a lengthy investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division.

According to the AG’s Office, Ms. Baconga and Ms. Blas have been charged with the following crimes: people trafficking, profiting from prostitution (no coercion), profiting from prostitution (coercion), exploiting a trafficked person, advancing prostitution (coercion), advancing prostitution (no coercion), money laundering, unlawful wage obligation, unlawful employee restrictions, unlawful work schedule, and violation of the requirement of obtaining a foreign investment approval certificate.

Mr. Esang has been charged with unlawful employee restrictions and aiding and abetting a violation of the requirement of obtaining a foreign investment approval certificate while Gov. Shmull has been charged with soliciting prostitution.

The AG’s Office said that these activities (charges against the defendants) occurred numerous times primarily at the ATT Karaoke Bar and Disco. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Joshua Kolsrud.

The investigation by CID reportedly came about after a raid at ATT, which was also after the testimonies of three workers from ATT who ran away in November.

Earlier reports showed that on November 22, three workers from ATT Karaoke Bar and Disco ran away from the said establishment after complaining that the DJ of the said bar assaulted one of them. The three workers who ran away were identified as Maria Lolita Ramirez a.k.a. "Madel", Maria Theresa Serapion a.k.a. "Pia" and Winnielyn Marcelino a.k.a. "Ives."

According to Maria Lolita Ramirez a.k.a. "Madel" when she was recruited in the Philippines, it was said that she was to work as a cashier while Serapion and Marcelino were told that they will work as waitress in a fine dinning restaurant. They all stated that when they arrived in Palau, they were shocked that they were given aliases and that they were to work as guest relations officer or GRO.

They all said that they were not given any day off or a chance to go out and do their personal thing. They said that Ms. Baconga would just limit them to go to a nearby internet café and that they were just given an hour to do so.

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