Saudi Princess Off The Hook For Holding Housekeeper in 'Forced Slavery'
A Saudi Princess initially headed to court today to face accusations she held one of her domestic employees against her will while on the job in Irvine is now off the hook, as the charges against her have now been dropped.The human trafficking charge against Meshael Alayban was dismissed due to lack of evidence, said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in court today, according to City News Service. Alayban was not present. Following the hearing, Alayban's attorney said the accuser "lied" as part of a scheme to be awarded a special visa that would give her U.S. citizenship.
Alayban, 42, was arrested in July by Irvine Police, following an investigation by multiple local and federal agencies.
According to authorities in Irvine, the alleged victim was a 30-year-old Kenyan woman who escaped the Alayban's condo in July and flagged down a passing bus. The woman was holding a suitcase and a pamphlet given to her by the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia that explained her rights and what human trafficking is. She had reportedly been employed by the Alayban family through an agency in Kenya and worked for the suspect for over a year.
The victim claimed that once she arrived in Saudi Arabia to begin work, her passport was taken by Alayban, and she "was required to work excessive hours and paid only a fraction of the agreed upon salary." The housekeeper added that when she asked to leave, Alayban allegedly refused to surrender her passport or allow her to be released from her contract.
The victim traveled with Alayban's family and four other domestic employees from the Philippines on similar contracts to California. During initial hearings, lawyers for Alayban claimed that the housekeeper was treated incredibly well, pointing out that she "traveled to Orange County in first class, had her own cellphone and shopped at neighborhood malls on the employer's dime," according to CNS.
The attorneys elaborated that the five domestic workers "traveled to the U.S. on $10,000 first-class tickets, along with the family," and that they "had cellphones, Internet, Facebook, and the family even bought cable in their native language for them." Additionally, the five employees "enjoyed full use of the spa, gym and pool and were often dropped off to shop alone at neighborhood malls, all paid for by the family."
"Alayban's lawyers have portrayed the issue as a disagreement over work hours but [Orange County] District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has referred to it as forced labor and likened it to slavery," reports the Huffington Post.
The charge against Alayban marks the first case of forced labor human trafficking to be prosecuted in Orange County under terms of Proposition 35, approved by voters in November. The new law increased Alayban's potential punishment if she is convicted from about six years to 12 years behind bars, according to Rackauckas.
The four other domestic employees with the victim at the time of her alleged captivity said they were also subject to similar "contracts." Their travel documents were found inside a bank safe deposit box.
The Saudi Princess was a no-show in court in late July, and her arraignment was postponed until September 20. She had been released on $5 million bail in July but is wearing a GPS device to track her movements and is not allowed to leave Orange County without permission. Her attorneys refused to discuss her location when she declined to attend her initial court appearance at the time.
Alayban is one of the wives of Prince Abdulrahman, son of Nasser bin Abdulaziz.