Accused In Palau Human Trafficking Case Plead Not Guilty

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Hearing set for January 27 for Peleliu governor, three others

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, Jan. 7, 2014) – Peleliu State Gov. Temmy Shmull, Businessman Haruo Esang and two Philippine nationals, Mary Grace Baconga and Jeryl Blas, have entered a not guilty plea to the charges that the Attorney General’s Office filed against them in relation to the alleged unlawful activities that occurred at ATT Karaoke Bar and Disco.

All four defendants made their first initial appearance at the court on December 30. Shmull, Esang and Baconga appeared with their counsel, Oldiais Ngiraikelau, while Blas appeared with Chief Public Defender Lalii Chin Sakuma.

The Republic was represented by Assistant AG Joshua Kolsrud.

Shmull and Esang, after entering not guilty pleas, were released on their own recognizance with conditions that they shall turn in their passport to the Clerk of Courts (Shmull on January 2, 2014 and Esang on December 30, 2013), shall sign waiver of extradition, shall stay away from the alleged victims in this case, shall not leave the Republic without court’s approval and shall obey all law and orders of the court.

Baconga and Blas, after entering not guilty pleas, posted surety bond each in the amount of $1,000. They were also released with conditions similar to the conditions given to Shmull and Esang, except that there was no deadline provided for turning in their passport to the Clerk of Courts.

A plea hearing/trial setting conference on this case was set January 27 at 9 a.m. in Koror. This case is before Associate Justice R. Ashby Pate.

Earlier reports showed Baconga and 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.

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.

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