Saudi princess charged with US human trafficking

AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
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Meshael Alayban, Saudi Arabian national arrested on charges of Human Trafficking, City of Irvine, California Police Department handout. (AP Photo)

Meshael Alayban, Saudi Arabian national arrested on charges of Human Trafficking, City of Irvine, California Police Department handout. (AP Photo)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Suitcase in hand, a 30-year-old domestic worker from Kenya flagged down a bus in California and told a passenger she had been held against her will and believed she was a victim of human trafficking.

It wasn’t long before a Saudi princess was under arrest.

Meshael Alayban, who prosecutors said is a wife of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, appeared Thursday in an Orange County court, but her arraignment was delayed until July 29 at the request of her attorney.

She wore a jail jumpsuit and stood in a prisoner holding area in the courtroom.

The judge also issued a protective order barring her from communicating with the woman from Kenya, whose name was not released.

Alayban, 42, was charged Wednesday with human trafficking. She was arrested at an Irvine condominium that police searched after talking to the Kenyan woman.

The woman told authorities she had been hired in Kenya in 2012 and taken to Saudi Arabia, where her passport was immediately taken. She said she was forced to work excessive hours, was paid less than promised, and was not allowed to leave.

“This is not a contract dispute,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in court during a bail hearing Wednesday. “This is holding someone captive against their will.”

A judge set Alayban’s bail at $5 million, ordered GPS monitoring and banned her from leaving the county without authorization.

Alayban’s attorney, Paul Meyer, said the case was a contractual dispute and argued his client shouldn’t be assigned a ransom-like bail solely because she was rich.

He said his client had been traveling to the U.S. since she was a child, owned properties here, and had given her word she would address the allegations.

“This is a domestic work-hours dispute,” he said.

Rackauckas had asked the judge to deny bail for Alayban or set it at $20 million, saying it was unlikely any amount would guarantee a Saudi princess would show up in court. He said the Saudi consulate had already offered to cover the $1 million bail initially set after her arrest.

Authorities said the Kenyan woman had signed a two-year contract with an employment agency guaranteeing she would be paid $1,600 a month to work eight hours a day, five days a week. But starting in March 2012, she was forced to cook, clean and do other household chores for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and was paid only $220 a month, prosecutors said.

She was allowed to have a passport only long enough to enter the U.S., prosecutors said.

Once here, she was allegedly forced to tend to at least eight people in four units in the same Irvine complex, washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and ironing.

Four other workers from the Philippines left the condominium voluntarily after authorities arrived. They told police they were interested in being free, said Irvine police chief David Maggard Jr.

No charges have been filed related to those women, and police said there were no signs any of the workers had been physically abused.

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