A Bangladeshi national has been charged on multiple counts of human trafficking and labor exploitation charges–all of which are felony charges with the punishment of imprisonment and/or fines of up to $50,000 if found guilty.

The charges allege that Zakir Khair is a known trafficker of his fellow Bangladeshis and had admitted to bringing people to Palau without promised jobs available.

According to information provided by the officer with the Anti-human Trafficking Office, Mr. Khair had recruited a victim, Mohsin, and had Mohsin pay him $4,500 to bring him to Palau with the promised job of $2.75 per hour, free housing, free food, and tax payment.

According to the report, Mohsin was not provided a job but instead kept as a “virtual prisoner” at Khair’s store for nearly a year. Before his labor permit was to expire, Mr. Khair asked Mohsin to pay an additional $1,500 to renew his permit and change his status from farmer to construction worker. After the permit was renewed, Mohsin found out it still had him listed as a farmer and he still did not have a job.

Furthermore, information revealed that Khair got Mohsin a job as a water tank cleaner at PPR for 2.5 months, and during that time Mohsin earned $1,700. According to the report, Khair took the whole amount and threatened Mohsin with a beating when he begged for money.

Another incident reported Khair getting Mohsin to work with a construction company. Mr. Mohsin gave Khair $2,600 to send to his family in Bangladesh but according to Mohsin, his family never received the money.

The charges allege that Khair continued to traffic and exploit Mohsin after Mohsin arrived in Palau.

Labor Trafficking in the First Degree means a person “intentionally or knowingly provided or obtained or attempted to provide or obtain a person for labor services…by deception or fraud, …by requiring that labor or services be performed to retire, repay, or service a real or purported debt in violation of 17 PNC Section 2002 (a) (7).”

Labor Trafficking in the First Degree is an offense punishable by 1-25 years imprisonment and an optional fine of $50,000. Exploiting Trafficked Person, if found guilty, is punishable by no more than 10 years in prison or a fine of not more than $50,000.

Palau is currently on Tier 2 Watch List on the 2021 Human Trafficking Report. One of the citings in the report says that Palau was too lenient in its sentencing of traffickers and that it has a weak victim’s support system. This February has been declared by President Whipps as Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

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