12 charged, nine arrested on criminal charges connected with attempted export of sea cucumbers

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

 

September 2, 2020

Pohnpei—On September 1, after a lengthy delay between the issuance of arrest warrants in mid-August, State Police officers arrested 9 of 12 people charged with various crimes in connection with an attempt to export 1763.7 pounds of dried sea cucumbers allegedly illegally harvested in Pohnpei waters.

The people accused of the crimes are presumed to be innocent unless they are found to be otherwise in fair court proceedings which have not yet begun.

On July 10, Associate Justice Robert Nakasone approved a search and seizure warrant authorizing State Police to seize the container that had been at the FSCO dock awaiting export to Hong Kong. On August 13, Pohnpei State prosecutors filed three sets of criminal charges against two Chinese nationals and 10 citizens of Pohnpei.  The Court issued arrest warrants for all 12 shortly after the charges were filed.

Police investigators decided to delay making the arrests pending the outcome of their applications for additional search and seizure warrants. They waited over two weeks for a ruling from the Court on those applications and finally decided that they must proceed with the arrests without a ruling on the search warrants.  While they were making the arrests, the court granted the additional search and seizure warrants.

On Tuesday police officers arrested XIE Cuntao of Young Sun International to answer for 42 criminal charges. LI Xiangyang of Young Sun was also named in those charges but police could not make that arrest

because Li is currently in China and currently unable to return.

Police also arrested four employees of the Pohnpei State Government for 54 criminal charges.  Named in that criminal information were Itaia R. Fred, Jonathan Dewey, Scotty Malakai, and Dulen Soumwei.

Police attempted to arrest six Pohnpeian employees of Young Sun International for 18 criminal charges. However, two of the people named on that criminal information were in Sapwuahfik at the time the arrests were made.  A Pohnpei State prosecutor said that police would soon make the arrests of those two but that the other four were arrested.  Named in the 18 criminal charges were Michael Benjamin, Knorr Norman, Norket Norman, Kainer Ittu, and Ridner Paul.

The criminal information document filed against Xie and Li list seven charges for each of six months for a total of 42 counts for actions they allegedly took from February through July. They are charged with bribery of the four public officials who were also charged; criminal conspiracy; criminal solicitation; fishing in state water-“prohibited acts by non-recreational commercial fishing”; conservation and resources – “Sea cucumber prohibition, moratoriums, exemption”, and, compounding a crime.

The State charged the four Pohnpei State Government officials with nine separate charges for crimes they allegedly committed in each of the same six months for a total of 54 separate counts.  The charges are bribery for allegedly attempting to receive bribes from the charged Young Sun representatives for an official act to be done or not done. They are charged with criminal conspiracy; criminal solicitation; compounding a crime; concealment, removal or alteration of record or process—in this case, records of the Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture; misconduct in public office, impersonating a public servant, fishing in state water-“prohibited acts by non-recreational commercial fishing”; and, conservation and resources – “Sea cucumber prohibition, moratoriums, exemption”.

The six local Young Sun employees were charged with three separate charges for crimes they allegedly committed in the same six month period for a total of 18 counts.  They are each charged with conservation and resources – “Sea cucumber prohibition, moratoriums, exemption”; fishing in state water-“prohibited acts by non-recreational commercial fishing”; and, compounding a crime.

Bail hearings for the nine arrested officials were held on Wednesday, September 2.  The court allowed bail for each of the defendants. Li was granted bail with a $50,000 cash bond. The other eight defendants were also allowed bail on various cash and surety bonds of smaller amounts.