Prosecutors on Friday dropped human trafficking charges against a Saudi princess, saying a domestic servant living with her in Southern California was not being held against her will as previously alleged.
Meshael Alayban, 42, was charged in July after the 30-year-old woman alleged that, among other things, she wasn’t free to leave Alayban’s condominium in Irvine.
But an extensive investigation after Alayban’s arrest determined that while the servant might have believed the allegations, the woman’s movements weren’t restrained and Alayban wasn’t guilty, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters outside a courtroom after a judge dismissed the case Friday morning.
“The evidence indicates very strongly at this point that the (domestic servant) was not actually the victim of human trafficking, and so this case had to be dismissed,” Rackauckas said.
Alayban, one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, was arrested and charged after the servant, originally from Kenya, left the condominium, flagged down a bus and then talked to police.
The woman accused Alayban of paying her only $220 month, significantly less than the $1,600 a month she said she was promised. The woman also claimed that she was denied medical care, and that, when she arrived in Saudi Arabia to work for the family before following Alayban to California, the family confiscated her passport, authorities said.
But a post-charging investigation revealed that the “original terms of her employment were not what had been stated,” and that the other allegations also didn’t bear out, Rackauckas said.
“The fact is she did receive medical care, and … there really was not the restriction of her movements and her freedom to come and go as she certainly believed,” Rackauckas said.
Rackauckas said the movements of the family’s other four workers were not restricted.
“I don’t think (the servant) was lying to us. I think that there was a lot of misunderstanding and misapprehension,” Rackauckas said,
One of Alayban’s attorneys, Paul Meyer, told reporters he thanks Rackauckas “for standing up and doing the right thing.”
“Our sense is justice was done in this case,” Meyer said. “The princess is innocent, and we are now satisfied that’s been shown.”
Alayban’s family and the five workers had traveled to the United States in May. At the time of Alayban’s arrest, police said all five workers were in good health and there were no indications of physical abuse.
This would have been the first forced labor human trafficking case to be prosecuted in Orange County under California’s Proposition 35, which passed in November and increased the penalty for human trafficking.
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