Saudi Royal Princess Meshael Alayban, 42, was absent on Monday when an Orange County court convened a hearing on human trafficking charges filed against her.
Judge Gerald Johnston said, “I expect her to be here” for future hearings, but he acknowledged that the court record did not require her presence for the hearing.
Alayban has been charged with coercing a Kenyan woman who came with her from Saudi Arabia to work massive amounts of hours with inadequate compensation.
Alayban’s date for entering a plea has been postponed to September 20. She was arrested July 10, freed on bond after the Saudi Arabian consulate posted her $5 million bail, and ordered to wear a GPS tracking device forcing her to stay in Orange County.
The two sides have different versions of what transpired: the Kenyan woman asserted that she had been trapped, her passport taken from her and locked in a safe, while Alayban’s attorneys said their client gave the Kenyan woman and three fellow workers cellphones, complete Internet access, and cable TV in their respective languages.
The attorneys added, “They enjoyed full use of the spa, gym, and pool and were often dropped off alone at neighborhood malls, all paid for by the family.”
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in Los Angeles and southern Nevada, said that the working arrangement that Alayban had is common in Saudi Arabia.
“The people who are hired as such think they’re getting a benefit from it,” said Arnold. “They’re getting a roof over their head. They’re getting fed. On the face of it they think they’re getting treated well. So they don’t think of themselves as victims.”