Prosecute human traffickers


Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan said he asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Guam and the Northern Marianas to prosecute those involved in human trafficking, adding that it’s a “shame” that it is still happening in the CNMI.

“It’s happening today. It’s a shame and it should be prosecuted,” Sablan told members and guests of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce during its general membership meeting at The Palms Resort in San Roque on Wednesday.

When sought for comments, U.S. Attorney Leonardo M. Rapadas said his office has prosecuted human trafficking cases in the past and will continue to do so.

During the same meeting, Sablan also announced that he’s now seeking a one-year delay in the implementation of Public Law 110-229, “only” because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is not ready to implement the federalization law by Nov. 28.

During a question-and-answer segment, Sablan said he asked U.S. Attorney Rapadas to prosecute those engaged in human trafficking.

“I told the U.S. attorney to do his job and prosecute those involved in these activities,” Sablan said, adding that reports and allegations of human trafficking do not help his job in Washington, D.C.

The delegate asked Saipan Tribune not to print at this time the name of one of the alleged human traffickers who is running a business on Saipan.

U.S. Attorney Rapadas said he agrees that human trafficking “is a problem that my office has prosecuted in the past and continues to prosecute. We are working with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the establishment of homeland security in the CNMI, so our efforts to continue prosecuting human trafficking will definitely increase.”

Rapadas said the Office of the Federal Ombudsman has also been helping his office “but with ICE coming on board, we will definitely see an increase [in prosecution of human trafficking cases].”

In July, the Karidat Social Service told the media that there’s been a drop in the number of individuals admitted to the Guma Esperansa, which provides shelter to victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and for witness protection. Karidat said admission to Guma Esperansa went from 256 in 2007 to 175 in 2008. But there’s no breakdown as to how many of these seeking shelters at Guma Esperansa were victims of human trafficking.

In a May 2008 report, Karidat said the incidence of human trafficking in the CNMI almost doubled, from 28 in 2006 to 50 in 2007.

Compared with other U.S. territories, this figure is way up, with American Samoa Hawaii and Guam recording less than 10 combined at that time.

The U.S. Department of Justice itself considered the CNMI a hotspot for human trafficking due to its close proximity to many Asian countries and its lax immigration system, according to Samantha Vardaman, director of programs for Shared Hope International, who visited Saipan in May 2008. SHI is a non-profit organization with the mission to rescuing and restoring victims of sex trafficking.

In the CNMI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have made human trafficking among its priority issues.

Sablan’s request to look into human trafficking cases in the CNMI came months after he told the media in July that he asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate an alleged investment scam. He said the scam involves a group of Korean investors telling other businessmen in Korea that investing in the CNMI will automatically grant them an investor status in the United States.

In August, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said he was able stop Flame Sako Resort & Spa from publishing a marketing brochure that contains “misrepresentation” about the CNMI. The “draft” brochure had Fitial’s photo in it.

Flame Sako plans to build a $60 million to $80 million resort and spa north of the Palms Resort in Marpi. The governor said he was able to stop the printing of the erroneous brochure even before Sablan pointed it out to the media