Former Chinese Diplomats Face Charges
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged two former Chinese diplomats in a six-year scheme involving forced construction work.
The criminal complaint against Dan Zhong and Landong Wang was made public Tuesday (Nov. 15) in Brooklyn federal court, according to Reuters and other reports.
Prosecutors say that Zhong and Wang, who worked for an unidentified Chinese-based construction company, forced Chinese employees—brought to the U.S. to perform work at China’s U.N. mission and other diplomatic facilities—to perform work at private construction sites, including renovations at a Long Island residence and a 5th Avenue high-rise under construction.
The men are said to be in custody. A copy of the complaint was not immediately available for review Wednesday (Nov. 16).
Illegal Labor Scheme
Zhong was reportedly the principal of the Chinese construction company’s U.S. operations; while Wang was a manager. Both were former diplomats and allegedly hired Chinese workers who received visas to perform work at China’s U.N. mission and other facilities.
Instead, the workers were allegedly “forced by physical restraint, threats and abuse to perform contracting work at private sites,” Reuters said, citing the complaint.
Those private jobsites, included renovations valued at over $1 million, had not been properly licensed by local building authorities, Newsday reported.
Cash Deposits and Escapees
They were allegedly forced to submit $22,000 cash deposits and sign contracts that said if the workers ran away or violated other terms of the agreement, the construction company would “no longer assume responsibility for […] personal or political safety,” the report said, citing the complaint.
The workers said they were threatened with the loss of their deposits as well as their homes, Newsday reported.
“Escapees” were allegedly tracked down, the report said.
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The workers were allegedly threatened with the loss of their $22,000 deposits as well as their homes if they refused to work.
Citing court documents, the report said the Chinese workers were paid $1,180 a month and were housed together in packed dwellings in Jersey City.
The scheme, prosecutors said, had been in operation since 2010 and involved as many as 46 Chinese workers, according to the report.
The complaint said that after investigators questioned Wang last fall, six workers were booked on flights back to China.
Link to Bribery Case
Moreover, the $10 million Long Island residence mentioned in the complaint is thought to be linked to a U.N. bribery case, according to Reuters.
While the owner of the residence was not identified by authorities, Reuters reports it is owned by Qin Fei, an associate of billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who faces trial in January on charges he bribed a former U.N. General Assembly president to support a Macau-based conference center his company would develop.
In a comment to Reuters, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman said that “building projects for China's U.N. mission and other bodies in the U.S. respect pacts between the two countries, and China has always protected the rights and safety of citizens overseas.”