Saudi princess Meshael Alayban, right, listens to an interpreter during her scheduled appearance in court Thursday July 11, 2013 in Santa Ana, Calif. Alayban appeared in Orange County Superior Court Thursday but her arraignment was delayed to July 29 at the request of her attorney. Alayban, 42, was charged Wednesday with human trafficking and accused of holding a domestic worker from Kenya against her will. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Accused of human trafficking, Meshael Alayban said ‘victim was treated well.’
Attorneys for a Saudi princess said the housekeeper, the defendant, is accused of keeping against her will in an Irvine apartment complex traveled to Orange County in first class, had her own cell phone and was even allowed to shop at neighborhood malls on the employer’s dime. The July 29 arraignment for Meshael Alayban, 42, who’s charged with felony human trafficking, was postponed until Sept. 20. Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston questioned why the defendant wasn’t present in court for the hearing, but her attorneys said they had previously arranged to reschedule her plea. Alayban was released on $5 million bail earlier this month, but she is wearing a GPS device to track her movements and she is not allowed to leave Orange County without permission.
After the hearing, Alayban’s attorneys Paul S. Meyer and Jennifer Keller, issued the following statement: The alleged victim and four other “nannies” for Alayban “traveled to the U.S. on $10,000 first class tickets, along with the family. These women had
cell phones, internet, Facebook, and the family even bought cable in their native language for them. They 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.”
Previously, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas made appearances for the prosecution, but Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray, an experienced homicide prosecutor, is taking over the prosecution. Neither Murray nor the District Attorney’s Office public information officers were immediately available for comment. Alayban is one of the six wives of Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a grandson of Saudi King Abdullah, according to authorities. 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. Rackauckas has characterized the case as “an example of forced labor” locally. Alayban was charged with one felony count of human trafficking. Investigators were considering whether to file more charges because authorities encountered four women from the Philippines who authorities said they initially suspected also had been held against their will.
The alleged victim, a 30-year-old woman from Kenya, left the defendant’s condominium July 9 and flagged down a passing bus, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said. The woman sought employment because her 7-year-old daughter is ill and she wanted to have enough money for medical care, Rackauckas said. She was hired to cook, clean and do other household chores in her employer’s palace, according to prosecutors. When the woman arrived for her work assignment, her passport was taken and she was put to work for excessive hours for a fraction of the agreed-upon salary, Engen said. When the woman complained about the working conditions and asked for her passport back, it was refused, Engen said.
Prosecutors said she worked 16 hours every day with no days off. Her salary was allegedly $220 a month, not the $1,600 she had been promised, and was not allowed to return to Kenya. Her contract stated she would be able to return to Kenya after three months if she wished, but the document was “torn up,” when she reported for work, Rackauckas alleged.