Palau’s Speaker of the House of Delegates, Sabino Anastacio, was charged with misconduct in Public office and violation of the Unified Tax Act on Friday, 04 August at the Palau Supreme Court.

Misconduct in Public Office is a Class B felony with a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of not less than US$25,000 upon conviction. Violation of the Unified Tax Act is a misdemeanor charge with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of not more than US$1,000.

The case filed by the Special Prosecutor alleged that Speaker Anastacio, “under the color of office,” failed to obtain a business license in 2015 while engaging in business.

Information in the charging documents revealed Sabino Anastacio and his wife, Kuye Belelai, entered into land lease agreements with a Chinese national, Qin Zhong, aka Selina Zhong, leasing to her three different lots in Aimeliik for a total of US$3,275,734.40 without obtaining a business license.

The three lots include a land known as Yilchutem, which was leased for US$1.865 million, a 125,000 square meters of mangrove area in Ngchemiangel, Aimeliik, next to the IPSECO power plant leased for US$1.410 million, and 6,120 square meters of mangrove area also near IPSECO for US$734.40 per year.

These lots were for the proposed mega-resort project dubbed Wyndham Globat Resort in Ngchemiangel, a hamlet of Aimeliik State. The resort was said to offer 400 villas and 132 hotel guest rooms. Sea Sky International Development Group, a Global International Development Group subsidiary from the People’s Republic of China, was the project developer.

The project held a groundbreaking ceremony in July 2018 in Palau. House Speaker Anastacio, Senate President Hokkons Baules, and Chinese Counsellor Li Cuiyang from the PRC Embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia attended the event. The project is yet to start.

In his financial disclosure statement, Anastacio reported the US$3 million income from his real estate leases but failed to pay taxes, violating the Unified Tax Act.

Defendant Anastacio agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement where the prosecution is deferred for one year, and he waives his right to a speedy trial, obtains a business license, and starts paying outstanding taxes on the US$3,275,734.40 monies he received in 2015.

The case will be dismissed if defendant Anastacio meets the agreement conditions within the one-year time frame. If he fails, the Republic will resume prosecution as if it was never deferred.

Defendant Speaker Anastacio agreed to the 04 August 2023 stipulation.