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Saudi Arabian consulate posted princess’ $5-million bail

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Saudi princess Meshael Alayban, 42, right, listens to Arabic interpreter Ahmed Mekhemar during her appearance in Santa Ana court.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The $5 million bail posted to free a jailed Saudi princess accused of human trafficking was paid by the Saudi Arabian consulate, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.

Meshael Alayban was released from custody before 6 p.m. Thursday, the day after being taken into custody by Irvine police, Orange County Sheriff’s Department records show.  

“They brought in a check, the funds were verified,” Lt. Jeff Hollock said.

The consulate representative presented the $5 million check to the cashier’s office at the jail’s Intake Release Center in Santa Ana about 3 p.m. Thursday, he said.

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Alayban, 42, is reported to be one of six wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud. She was arrested Wednesday after a Kenyan woman reportedly being forced to work as a servant fled one of the princess’ four condos in an Irvine residential complex, boarded a bus and eventually made her way to police.

Prosecutors said Alayban “did unlawfully deprive and violate the personal liberty” of the Kenyan woman by forcing her to cook, clean, do laundry and perform other household chores for meager pay.

Alayban’s attorney, Paul S. Meyer, downplayed the incident as a dispute between the princess and her servant over hours worked and wages paid. There was no physical abuse in the household and the woman was not physically restrained, he said.

“We ... expect that the truth will resolve this matter,” he said in a written statement.

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In March 2012, Alayban hired the servant through a Kenyan employment agency, authorities said. The woman, 30, said she needed money to provide medical care for her 7-year-old daughter, who remains in Kenya.

Her contract said she would work five days a week, for eight hours a day, and make $1,600 a month. After three months, she could return home if she was unhappy, authorities said.

But once she arrived in Saudi Arabia, authorities said, the princess tore up the contract, confiscated the woman’s passport and refused to return it. She was forced to work seven days a week, up to 16 hours a day, and made $220 a month, she said.

Earlier this year, the princess and her family visited the U.S. At the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, the Kenyan servant was given a temporary visa and handed a red, white and blue pamphlet that told temporary workers that they had the right to “report abuse without retaliation” and “seek justice in U.S. courts.”

When the family made the trip to Irvine in May, the Kenyan woman briefly got her passport back. But she was always accompanied by a family member, authorities said, and in Irvine, the princess again took the woman’s passport.

The Kenyan woman continued her work in the four condo units, authorities said, where the prince and princess, their three young children and four other servants from the Philippines also live. The servants’ passports had been locked in a bank safe deposit box, said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, who recently announced that he was forming a special unit to deal with human trafficking.

It’s unclear why the Kenyan woman chose Tuesday morning to slip away.

“She is a smart woman,” said Steve Baric, her attorney. “I think she saw her opportunity to go to freedom and she took it.”

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Once the woman boarded the bus, a fellow passenger noticed that she was upset, Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen said. After the Kenyan woman, who speaks English, shared her story, the passenger brought the woman to her workplace to call police.

Later that day, authorities searched the princess’ condo units and found the other servants. “The detective spoke to them and said, ‘Do you want to leave with us?’” Engen said. “And they said, yes.”

Alayban was arrested early Wednesday. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 29. She faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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joseph.serna@latimes.com


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