Monday, November 14, 2011

Taiwanese Official in Kansas Charged for "Fraudulently Obtaining a Filipino Servant"

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston...Image via WikipediaVia DOJ:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a high-ranking representative of Taiwan was charged in federal court today with fraud in foreign labor contracting for fraudulently obtaining a Filipino servant for her residence.

Hsien-Hsien “Jacqueline” Liu, 64, of Taiwan, residing in Leawood, Kan., was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo. Liu is the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office located in Kansas City, Mo. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office is part of the Taiwan organization responsible for maintaining close unofficial relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan. They are generally the equivalent of a consulate of a foreign government, but the United States does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.

Today’s criminal complaint alleges that Liu fraudulently obtained an employment contract with a Filipino housekeeper, whom Liu then brought to the United States to work for her on a B-1 visa. Liu allegedly paid her significantly less than the contractual amount and forced her to work excessive hours and perform tasks outside the terms of the contract.

According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s criminal complaint, Liu hired a woman (identified as “Female Victim” or “FV”) who was living in the Philippines in November 2010. Liu signed an employment contract, which was used to obtain a B-1 visa for the victim. The victim arrived in the United States on March 5, 2011, the affidavit says, and began working for Liu the next day.

Once in the United States, the affidavit says, Liu paid the Filipino worker $400-450 per month, although the employment contract stipulated a salary of $1,240 per month. Liu allegedly required the victim to work six days a week, 16 to 18 hours a day, and forbid her to leave the house without permission. Under the terms of her employment contract, the affidavit says, she was to work no more than eight hours a day, 40 hours per week, and her presence was not required inside the residence except during working hours.

Liu took the victim’s passport and visa and would not return them, according to the affidavit. Liu allegedly told the victim that she was friends with local law enforcement and well known in the community, and threatened her with deportation. Liu monitored the victim from a video surveillance cameras she had installed inside her residence, the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, Liu was verbally abusive to the victim and had her conduct additional manual labor and personal services for Liu.

During a trip to the grocery store, the affidavit says, the victim located a Filipino inside the store and sought his help. The victim told him that she was trapped, and being underpaid and mistreated. He communicated with her at church, the affidavit says, but eventually Liu required that she work on Sundays so she was not able to attend. On Aug. 10, 2011, he helped the victim escape from Liu’s residence.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this complaint are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. It was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project.

FocusTaiwan reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) lodged a strong protest "over the U.S. detention of a Taiwanese diplomat and demanded she be immediately released unconditionally."  In the report, Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Yang cited a 1980 agreement on privileges and immunities signed between Taiwan and the U.S. for Liu's immunity.
"Before Taiwan forsakes immunity, U.S. law enforcement authorities cannot treat ROC diplomatic personnel that way," Yang said.

He stressed that Liu still enjoyed immunity privileges under the pact, and said that even if U.S. law enforcement authorities have a case, they should still follow diplomatic channels and not "violate or ignore the agreement."
Bruce J. D. Linghu, director of the MOFA's Department of North American Affairs, called the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy here in the absence of diplomatic ties, and Deputy Foreign Minister Lyushun Shen called in acting AIT Director Eric Madison to express strong protests.

Focus Taiwan had a follow up report yesterday quoting Premier Wu Den-yih saying that "the recent detention of a Taiwanese diplomat in the U.S. city of Kansas is irrelevant to Washington's policy on Taiwan." The premier according to the report, also "urged Liu to be honest so that the ministry can get a full understanding of the situation."

This case appears to be widely covered by Taiwanese media. Taiwan News posted
what it says is a written response from the State Department on the issue of immunity:
In a written response to the inquiry about the U.S. stance on the issue, the State Department spokesman said that under the 1980 agreement, Liu enjoys a status similar to that of consular officers.

“She has immunity only for acts performed within the scope of her authorized functions,” the spokeman wrote.

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