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Defendant in foreign labor case allowed to depose 4 witnesses in Bangladesh

ONE of the five defendants implicated in a fraudulent foreign labor scheme has been allowed by the federal court to depose four witnesses in Bangladesh who, he claimed, will prove his innocence.

District Court for the NMI Designated Judge John C. Coughenour authorized the request of Mohammed Rafiqul Islam who is represented by attorney Bruce Berline.

Islam’s co-defendants are Muksedur Rahaman, Shahinur Akyer, David Trung Quoc Phan, and Analyn Nunez.

The sixth defendant, Zeaur Rahaman Dalu, has entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. government, pleading guilty to counts three and four of the amended superseding indictment.

The prosecution alleged that Islam and his co-defendants defrauded Bangladeshi nationals by promising them jobs, wages and permanent resident status in Saipan in exchange for large cash payments.

Islam is accused of recruiting workers in Bangladesh and coaching them for visa interviews.

In his order, Judge Coughenour noted that the proposed witnesses are beyond the subpoena power of the United States.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Benedetto said the witnesses could be paroled into the CNMI without a U.S. visa.

Judge Coughenour said the expected testimony is clearly material to the case and the proposed witnesses are assumedly willing to testify.

He said it is in the best interest of justice that Islam be allowed to take the requested depositions, adding that the U.S. government’s concern regarding admissibility and credibility can be addressed at trial.

The court also noted that Islam is eligible to receive Criminal Justice Act funds to cover costs and expenses related to the depositions.

The judge directed Islam to apply for deposition funding with Magistrate Judge Heather Kennedy who may either grant or deny the request.

Judge Coughenour also ordered Islam to provide the U.S. government reasonable prior notice of time and place of depositions.

The jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 2, 2017 at 10 a.m.