A Saudi princess charged with human trafficking has been freed, after posting $5 million bail. She had been arrested in California the day before.
Meshael Alayban, one of the six wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, was granted bail only after authorities imposed strict travel requirements and GPS tracking, to keep her in the region. Alayban was arrested after a Kenyan woman who worked for her as a maid went to police alleging she had been held against her will and forced to work.
The 30-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, previously worked for the Alayban family in Saudi Arabia, where she claimed she was forced to work excessive hours and was only paid a fraction of the salary she was promised. The Kenyan woman said her passport was taken from her when she left her country to work for the princess. Authorities said it wasn’t until she traveled with the Saudi family on their holiday to the United States that she was able to escape, flag down a bus, and call police.
The maid led officers to a condominium where Alayban’s family was staying. When the condo was searched, the police found four other workers from the Philippines. The women left voluntarily with officers and told them they were interested in being free. No charges have been filed related to those women and police said there were no signs any of the workers had been physically abused. The women’s passports had all been held in a safe deposit box.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas likened Alayban to a slave owner. “It’s been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and slavery has been unlawful in the United States, and certainly in California, all this time, and it’s disappointing to see it in use here.”
The District Attorney had requested that Alayban’s bail be set at $20 million or deny it entirely, saying it was unlikely any amount would guarantee a woman of such wealth would turn up for her July 29 arraignment. The judge did not agree with the figure.
Alayban is forbidden to have contact with the alleged victim, cannot leave Orange County without permission from the court, and had to turn over her passport. When she appeared in court to answer to charges, she did not enter a plea.
The Saudi royal family is extensive, with thousands of princes and princesses, including some who have run into trouble with the law. In 2002, Saudi princess Buniah al-Saud, was fined $1,000 for pushing her maid down a flight of stairs. In 1995, another Saudi princess, Maha Al-Sudairi, allegedly beat a servant in front of sheriff’s deputies who were providing off-duty security. No charges were ever filed.
“These people have lots of money; they think they’re above the law,” said Ali AlAhmed, director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs.
If convicted, the princess faces a maximum sentence of 12 years.