An employer at Jia Ren Massage Parlor in Koror, Ms. Yanxiang “Alice” Zu, has been found guilty of promoting prostitution by the Palau Supreme Court on Tuesday of this week.

Ms. Zu, a Chinese national, pled guilty to charges of Promoting Prostitution and to Violation of the Foreign Investment Act as part of a plea agreement reached between Ms. Zu and the Republic, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor. In return, remaining charges of prostitution and working without a permit were dismissed.

The conviction comes as a result of a criminal investigation conducted by the Office of the Special Prosecutor and the Anti-Human Trafficking Office in April and May of 2020 on the Jia Ren Massage Parlor, in response to information that the parlor was serving as a “front business” for prostitution. The investigation, which included undercover operations, unearthed evidence that prostitution was a regular practice at the location, and ended in the arrest of Ms. Zu, two other Chinese nationals, Ms. Changhong Sun and Ms. Congying Liu, and Ngaraard State Governor Benjamin Iskawa, owner of Jia Ren.

Ms. Sun and Ms. Liu were both charged with prostitution, while Governor Iskawa was charged with five felonies and six misdemeanors, which include Misconduct in Public Office and Promoting Prostitution. Ms. Liu was convicted of prostitution in August of last year, while Governor Iskawa’s and Ms. Sun’s trials are pending.

The Court found that Ms. Zu worked as a part-owner of Jia Ren between August 1, 2019, and June 14, 2020, and profited from a prostitution enterprise when she engaged employees such as Congying Liu to serve as prostitutes to clientele.

Undercover operations conducted by investigators from the Office of the Special Prosecutor discovered Ms. Zu to be the manager of the premises, who collected clientele payments following services. Following Ms. Zu’s arrest on May 1, 2020, subsequent searches at the parlor uncovered evidence including a notebook which outlined the names of clientele, and the dates and money exchanged for services.

Ms. Zu was sentenced to two years’ probation and a fine of $1,500. She was also sentenced to thirty days’ imprisonment, but this sentence was suspended provided that she comply with the conditions of her probation and obey the laws of Palau.

Ms. Zu is married to a Palauan citizen, Mr. Mike Taman, who was arrested in the Philippines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in April 2019 for possession of methamphetamine, and remains incarcerated in the Philippines.

Investigations suggest that Governor Iskawa earned money from the front business managed by Ms. Zu, using a cash-only business where money is collected but no receipts are provided. The investigations also suggest that Governor Iskawa knew about the illegal activity occurring at the parlor, since he did not give or maintain receipts in violation of the Unified Tax Act. Governor Iskawa is scheduled for trial beginning July 20, 2021.  

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