Imperial Palace Saipan Casino Owner Cui Lijie Declared in Contempt of Court

Imperial Palace Saipan owner Cui Lijie has been found in contempt of court by a US district court judge in the Northern Marina Islands (NMI).

Imperial Palace Saipan Cui Lijie
Imperial Palace Saipan Cui Lijie
Chinese billionaire Cui Lijie smiles in an undated photograph. Cui has been found in contempt of court for failing to preserve and turn over her electronic data in an ongoing legal case involving her Imperial Palace Saipan casino resort. (Image: Forbes)

Chief Judge Ramona Manglona of the District Court for the NMI ruled this week that Cui violated a previous order to preserve her electronic records. Specifically, the court ruled that the Hong Kong businesswoman purposely deleted data from her smartphone and computers despite being aware she was to retain such activity.

The court found that Cui blatantly disregarded the court’s order by continuously deleting her WeChat messages even though the court’s preservation order required that she preserve all ESI (Electronically Stored Information) data,” Manglona said yesterday.

Manglona’s qualms with Cui didn’t end there. The federal judge says the billionaire failed to notify the court regarding several pieces of electronics that she used for dealings regarding the Imperial Palace Saipan casino resort. They include a personal laptop, an Android smartphone, and email.

Cui has five days to hand over all of her electronic devices for forensic copying. She must relinquish her desktop computer, laptop, Android and iPhone smartphones, and all SIM cards used since March of 2020.

Imperial Pacific International Workers Lawsuit

The court’s order is in relation to a lawsuit she’s named in brought by seven former casino construction workers who were severely injured on the job. They contend that their labor contracts were not upheld by Imperial Pacific International (IPI), the parent company of the $3.9 billion Saipan casino integrated resort.

Manglona told Cui’s attorneys that she will be fined $1,000 per day until she fully complies with the court’s order to surrender all relevant ESI items. Knowing that such a financial penalty is unlikely to scare the billionaire, the judge added that imprisonment is not off the table.

“Continued failure may result in further sanctions, including imprisonment,” Manglona warned.

In 2014, Cui secured Saipan’s lone casino license by offering the island government an annual $15 million gaming permit fee. IPI additionally pledged $3.1 million each year to help cover regulatory costs associated with the casino and promised to donate $20 million annually to the island’s Community Benefit Fund.

Imperial Pacific has failed to make good on the charitable contribution since 2017. The casino did not pay its annual licensing and regulatory fees for 2021.

Ongoing Case

In May, Manglona ruled in favor of the seven plaintiffs and demanded IPI pay them a total of $5.43 million in damages — or about $775,000 each before attorneys’ fees.

IPI, however, has appealed the verdict. That has led to Manglona ordering Cui to preserve all of her electronic data.

Cui is the majority owner of IPI, and along with her son, Ji Xiaobo was the visionary for the multibillion-dollar integrated resort project in Saipan. Though she resigned as chairperson of the Chinse conglomerate in June, Cui maintains a 60.69 percent ownership position in the holdings firm.

Cui and Ji made their fortune in Macau. Together, they ran a prominent VIP junket business called Heng Sheng that transported high rollers from around Asia to the Chinese gaming enclave.

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