IPI chair facing prison and major fines if contempt charge upheld

Golden Gavel
Golden Gavel

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) Chair Cui Li Jie may have been portrayed as a helpless victim by her legal team, but the courts aren’t buying it. Attorney Juan Lizama told a judge last month that she doesn’t run the casino operator and doesn’t have the skills to oversee its activity, despite the fact that she is a reportedly billionaire entrepreneur, and Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Chief Judge Ramona Manglona didn’t bite. She now wants Cui to explain why she shouldn’t be locked up for civil contempt and why she shouldn’t be fined for failing to comply with a court-ordered subpoena.

Cui and IPI have been under fire for a lot of reasons lately, but this particular episode of the ongoing drama centeres on construction workers, as well as a construction contractor. The company that made huge promises with its Imperial Palace casino resort, but which has failed to deliver on any of them, was sued for alleged labor law violations and human trafficking, for which a subpoena was issued to Cui last month. However, Cui never responded, according to the latest complaint.

The Guam Daily Post reports that one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Bruce Berline, Cui received the subpoena on January 18, but, the next day, one of her associates tried to “intimidate the process server” by threatening “legal trouble” if he didn’t take it back. On January 19, IPI reportedly returned the subpoena, ostensibly as an attempt to deny it had been delivered. Berline told the courts, “Neither this attempt at intimidation nor the act of returning the physical subpoena negates its legal validity.” He added, “Ms. Cui also never moved the court to quash or modify the subpoena. On Jan. 26, Ms. Cui then failed to appear for the deposition or produce any documents. Ms. Cui clearly violated her legal obligations under the subpoena.”

As a result, Berline asked Judge Manglona to hold Cui in contempt of court, and the judge has ordered her to speak up. She faces a fine of $10,000 a day until she complies with the subpoena, and the judge could hit her with even more sanctions, including possible jail time for noncompliance. Cui has to respond by this Wednesday if she wants to avoid any further issues. 

In yet another episode of the soap opera story, IPI has, once again, failed to pay its bills, adding to a list that keeps growing. The latest comes through the Banes Horey Berman & Miller law firm, which is suing the company for breach of contract. Judge Manglona has already ordered IPI to pay up after IPI defaulted, but it, as is its SOP, never made good on its obligations. It had been ordered to pay six installments of about $16,666 as part of a $100,000 settlement from last year, but will now have to pay $113,333.30 plus 9% interest.