Imperial Pacific has been ordered to stop all work on its Saipan casino and hotel project, Imperial Palace · Saipan, for at least one week after a District Court judge found the company and its Chairwoman Cui Li Jie in contempt of court.
The stop work order appears to be one of two issued separately on the same day, with Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ruling late last week that IPI and Cui were both in contempt for violating a consent judgement. That judgement, filed by the US Department of Labor in April 2019, had required IPI to repay US$3.36 million in back pay and damages for failing to pay its workers.
At the same time, the Department of Public Works (DPW) in CNMI issued its own stop work order due to IPI’s failure to ensure an engineer of record and safety inspector was on site.
As reported by Marianas Variety, it was the third stop work order the DPW has issued against IPI – all for the same reason – with the previous orders issued in October and December last year.
The timing of these latest stop work orders by both the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands and the DPW couldn’t have come at a worse time with the 28 February 2021 construction deadline for full completion of Imperial Palace · Saipan phase one under IPI’s casino license agreement barely a month away.
IPI, which had previously been due to complete the first phase by late 2018, was in September of that year granted an extension to its construction deadline until 28 February 2021. In May 2019, the company subsequently requested a further extension until August 2022 although that request was never followed through.
The Commonwealth Casino Commission last week warned IPI that failure to meet the looming deadline would comprise a “serious breach of contract” unless another amendment to its license agreement was made beforehand.
In the meantime, the District Court opted against prison time for Cui, or for former CEO Donald Browne, however Cui has been ordered to return to court on 28 January. She must also ensure US$1 million is deposited into an escrow account before employees who have not been paid for the past two months are allowed to return to work.
Browne stepped down from his role in December with IPI currently on the lookout for a new CEO.