Saudi princess charged with human trafficking in US

Agence France-Presse
When police arrested Meshael Alayban, they found 4 women from the Philippines who could also be victims of human trafficking

MESHAEL ALAYBAN. A handout booking image of Saudi Arabian national Meshael Alayban, who was arrested July 10 for alleged human trafficking. EPA/IRVINE POLICE DEPARTMENT

LOS ANGELES, USA – A Saudi princess has been charged in California with enslaving a Kenyan woman, forcing her to work in abusive conditions and holding her passport hostage, US authorities said Thursday, July 11.

Meshael Alayban, 42, one of 6 wives of a grandson of the Saudi King Abdullah, is accused of forcing the Kenyan woman to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, for a monthly salary of just $220.

When police arrested Alayban, they found 4 women from the Philippines who could also be victims of human trafficking. Those cases are still being investigated.

The unnamed woman, 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.

Bail for Alayban, who was arrested on Wednesday, has been set at $5 million.

Prosecutors said the victim had signed a contract with an employment agency that promised her a salary of $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.

If Alayban posts bail, she will have to surrender her passport, wear a GPS tracking device and will be forbidden to leave the county without permission, the statement explained.

The Kenyan woman, who began working in Saudi Arabia in March 2012 and moved to the US with the Saudi family in May 2013, was “forced to work tending to at least eight people in four apartments,” 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.”

Smart woman

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.

But 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,” the victim’s lawyer, Steve Baric, said.

If convicted, Alayban could face up to 12 years in jail. –

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