Saudi princess charged with US human trafficking

‘SLAVERY’::Meshael Alayban was accused of forcing a Kenyan woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week for just US$220 per month


Sat, Jul 13, 2013 - Page 7

A Saudi Arabian princess was to be released from US jail on bail on Thursday after being charged with enslaving a Kenyan woman, forcing her to work in abusive conditions and withholding her passport.

Meshael Alayban, 42, one of six wives of a grandson of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, paid a US$5 million bond and surrendered her passport, the Orange County, California, district attorney’s office said in a statement.

She “is required to wear a GPS tracking device, is prohibited from leaving Orange County without permission from the Court, and is barred from having any contact with the victim,” the statement said.

Alayban, who was arrested on Wednesday, is accused of forcing the Kenyan woman to work 16 hour a days, seven days a week, for a monthly salary of just US$220.

The unnamed victim, 30, who sought overseas work to pay for her young daughter’s medical care, allegedly worked in Alayban’s palace in Saudi Arabia and then in her home in Irvine, California, southeast of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said the victim had signed a contract with an employment agency that promised her a salary of US$1,600 a month for a 40-hour work week.

The princess was charged with “human trafficking of a Kenyan woman into the United States and forcing the victim to work as a domestic servant against her will,” the Orange County District Attorney said in a statement.

The victim, who began working in Saudi Arabia in March last year and moved to the US with the Saudi Arabian family in May this year, was “forced to work tending to at least eight people in four apartments” in Irvine, California, prosecutors said.

She was given no breaks, no days off, and no chance to leave “except for a family outing so the victim could carry the family’s bags.”

She told authorities Alayban withheld her passport and refused to allow her to return to Kenya.

Before her move to the US, Alayban told her to lie to authorities about the conditions of her employment during a visa interview, prosecutors said.

However, on Tuesday, the woman managed to escape, flagging down a bus. Noticing her nervousness, one of the passengers helped her contact the police. She carried a pamphlet with her, given during her visa interview, explaining her rights.

“She’s a smart woman. She saw her opportunity to get freedom and she took it,” said the victim’s lawyer, Steve Baric.

When police arrested Alayban, they found four women from the Philippines who could also be victims of human trafficking. Those cases are still being investigated, the prosecutor said.

However, on this count of human trafficking alone, if convicted Alayban could face up to 12 years in jail.