Fifteen Chinese nationals who have been issued criminal citations for online gambling have filed a motion in the Palau Supreme Court to dismiss the evidence against them, on the basis that it was obtained in an “unconstitutional” search and seizure.

The fifteen defendants were detained and released on September 18, following a raid conducted at the Palau Vacation Hotel in Malakal by the Ministry of Justice’s Special Task Force, created to investigate suspicious cyber-based activity. Eight of the defendants had registered work permits under Computer Programming and Design Co., while the others were allegedly in Palau on tourist visas.  

All 15 Chinese nationals have been criminally cited for possession of gambling devices and records, while six have been given additional labor citations for working in Palau without a work permit.

The motion to dismiss the evidence seized in the raid, filed on November 16 by Defense Attorney J. Uduch Sengebau Senior, argues that the gambling devices and records were seized without a search warrant, and were “not incident to a lawful arrest”.

“Therefore, the personal properties of the Defendants that were illegally confiscated by the police must be returned to them immediately,” the motion states.

The criminal trial, originally scheduled for December 10 and 11, has been suspended while the Court considers the motion.  

Task Force personnel who conducted the raid have stated that the evidence was seized during an inspection at Vacation Hotel, which uncovered “suspicious activity”. Evidence seized during the raid included electronic devices, as well as “a large amount of cash in US currency and Chinese currency”.

The motion claims that there was no probable cause for the Task Force to have investigated the Hotel, and that the law says that the Government cannot search or seize someone’s personal property without a search warrant.

The citations have previously caused some stir in the media due to their connection with Senator Camsek Chin, under whom Computer Programming and Design Co. is registered. However, Senator Chin has denied any connection to the illegal activity, stating that he was hiring the eight Chinese programmers in order to design a digital system to “make it easier for the people of Palau to interact with the government”. 

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