7 Feb 2003

Defence rejects slavery claim in Daewoosa Samoa case

11:24 am on 7 February 2003

The US government attorney in the Daewoosa Samoa court case has told the jury that Vietnamese workers were terrified by threats of being deported from American Samoa.

David Allred made the statement in the closing arguments in a landmark case in Honolulu over alleged modern day slavery at the now closed Daewoosa Samoa factory in Pago Pago.

The company's owner, Kil Soo Lee, and two former managers, Virginia Soliai and Robert Atimalala, are accused of keeping 200 Asian workers in involuntary servitude and of starving them.

The defence has dismissed the accusations as nonsense and Soliai's lawyer, Pamela Tamashiro, has told jurors that life at Daewoosa was not that bad as the Vietnamese and Chinese workers had a taste of democracy in action.

Soliai and Atimalala each face up to 150 years in prison for seven counts of involuntary servitude and one count of conspiracy for alleged crimes at the factory.

Lee is also charged with money laundering, attempting to bribe a bank official and making false statements.

If convicted on all charges he faces up to 360 years in prison