6 Feb 2003

Defence rejects slavery claims in Daewoosa Samoa trial

4:55 pm on 6 February 2003

Defence lawyers for two former managers at the Dawoosa Samoa factory have dismissed accusations that their clients beat and starved Asian workers in a landmark case over alleged modern day slavery.

In a Honolulu court, the two managers, Virginia Soliai and Robert Atimalala, and the owner, Kil Soo Lee, are accused of maltreating more than 200 Asian workers at the now closed plant in American Samoa.

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.

In earlier proceedings, the court was told the defendants dominated every aspect of their workers' lives, stole their money and hopes and stripped them of their humanity and freedom.

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