Video: Saudi princess arraigned on human trafficking in California
posted at 9:21 am on July 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
That’s actually the occupation listed by 42-year-old Meshael Alayban, booked into an Orange County jail after a Kenyan servant escaped and claimed to have been held against her will in Irvine. Under a relatively new California law on human trafficking, Alayban could go to prison for 12 years if convicted of the crime. Tthe state court granted Alayban a $5 million bail, which prosecutors lamented as too small to keep the Saudi woman in the US (via Instapundit):
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Meshael Alayban, 42, was booked into jail in Orange County on Wednesday morning after police said they found four additional women allegedly being held against their wills at her building. Jail records listed Alayban’s occupation as “princess.”
All five women were in good health and showed no indications of physical abuse, officials said. The Saudi princess allegedly stole their passports and work contracts, and forced them to work long hours for less than $10 a day, said Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen.
“The laws of our nation and California do not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labor or services,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement issued by the Irvine Police Department.
Alayban, a mother of three, may be the first person to be prosecuted in Orange County under a new law that increased penalties for human-trafficking offenses. She is one of six wives married to a grandson of the king of Saudi Arabia, authorities said.
The victim who allegedly escaped from the building was a 30-year-old maid from Kenya. The other four women were from the Philippines, Engen said.
The women had originally contracted to perform work for $1600 a month, according to the complaint, but only got paid $220 a month. Alayban allegedly kept their passports to keep them from fleeing or finding other work and forced them to work around the clock — not just for herself, but for others in the condo complex. When arrested, Alayban and her attorney claimed that this was nothing more than a contractual dispute, but the court obviously didn’t agree with that argument.
What’s remarkable is the penurious nature of Alayban, assuming that this claim is true. She can easily come up with enough cash to float a $5 million bail bond (which is not surprising, given her family’s fortune), but can’t pay a maid a decent wage? $220 a month isn’t much anywhere in the world, but it’s barely an allowance in southern California. Even with a normal 40-hour work week, which sounds as though it would have been nearly a vacation for these women, that comes to an hourly wage of just $1.27.
This is the first case for California’s new law, and it appears to be a good one — but I wonder if it will get very far in court. The Saudis are almost certain to claim some kind of immunity, although Alayban’s status as a princess doesn’t constitute a diplomatic identity. The necessities of diplomacy may end up forcing the US to cut some kind of deal that results in kicking Alayban out of the US for good, while keeping her now-freed servants in the US — if she doesn’t skip bail and flee the country first. I seriously doubt that the Saudis will sit still for having a royal princess serving time in an American prison.
Update: Jake Tapper reminded me on Twitter of his piece from last month about human trafficking and diplomacy:
CdeBaca gave an exclusive interview to CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” to discuss the issue and touched on the issue of diplomatic slavery.
The State Department would not comment on the number of diplomatic trafficking cases, saying they are still under investigation.
But the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, looked into the issue in 2008.
It found more than 42 domestic workers alleging they were abused by their foreign diplomat employers since 2000.
The actual numbers of victims are likely higher, the GAO said.
And there are allegations it occurs in the nation’s capital as well.
“It happens just miles from the White House here in Washington D.C.,” CdeBaca said.
“I think we like to think that slavery is what happens in the shadows. As a profession, we hear way too many stories around the world of diplomats who think that they have carte blanche to treat their servants badly,” said CdeBaca.
Be sure to read it all.