A visitor to Southern California from Saudi Arabia had three words to say about a princess from his country being busted in Orange County for allegedly keeping a maid as a slave: "God bless America."
Actually, the fellow had a lot more than that to say about the case against Meshael Alayban, the 42-year-old wife and mother of three children of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a grandson of King Abdullah.
I'm not going to identify the man because who the hell needs a middle-of-the-night visit from a royal goon squad?
He said many of his oil-rich country's 5,000 princes and princesses not only treat foreigners such as the alleged victim in Irvine (by way of Kenya) like slaves, but they treat the average Saudi citizens like slaves as well. In his home country, these royals act as if laws do not apply to them as they drive around in their luxury cars and "take all our money," the man claimed.
But, in the same breath, this Saudi called King Abdullah "a great man," hinting that even his royal highness finds the antics of some entitled relatives a royal pain in the ass.
"He is trying to make it better," the fellow said of the king.
While the visitor appreciates police and prosecutors in Orange County standing up to Alayban--District Attorney Tony Rackauckas noted for reporters last week, "It's been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation; it's disappointing to see (slavery) is in use here"--the Irvine case does not surprise the Saudi.
He said Saudi princes and princesses have brought domestic servants they treat like slaves to the United States and Europe for years.
The experts apparently bear this out.
Check this out from a 2008 Human Rights Watch report:
Approximately 1.5 million women domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, work in Saudi Arabia. These workers, viewed at home as "modern-day heroes" for the foreign exchange they earn, receive less protection in Saudi Arabia than other categories of workers, exposing them to egregious abuses with little or no hope of redress. Domestic workers comprise less than a quarter of the eight million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, but embassies from the labor sending countries report that abuses against domestic workers account for the vast majority of the complaints they receive.
And here is the U.S. State Department, in its 2012 "Trafficking in Persons Report:"
Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and many other countries voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but some subsequently face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude, including nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement such as the withholding of passports or confinement to the workplace. Although many migrant workers sign contracts delineating their rights, some report work conditions that are substantially different from those described in the contract. Other migrant workers never see a contract at all, leaving them especially vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage.
Meanwhile, a legal source I won't name--who the hell needs a middle-of-the-night visit from a law firm goon squad?--claims that certain Orange County lawyers are known as the lawyers to call when royal and V.I.P. visitors from certain Middle Eastern countries come here and get in trouble.
The Saudi consulate, which paid Alayban's $5 million bail, is said to have Paul S. Meyer on speed dial, according to the source. (Meyer is representing Alayban in court.)
A different veteran Orange County criminal defense lawyer is the choice of royals and others from Kuwait and their counterparts from Bahrain contact a third OC attorney, according to the source, who claimed the general public does not hear about most of these cases that generally involve DUI or identity theft aimed at getting fake California drivers licenses.
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And then there are the human slavery cases. The latest only came to light because the victim got on a bus, exposing her plight to the public only eight months after California voters further criminalized human trafficking.
Most of those from foreign countries brought to the country as slaves may not realize it is illegal, Rackauckas conceded last week. The 30-year-old Kenyan apparently discovered it is thanks to a U.S. Embassy pamphlet she picked up in Saudi Arabia.
Like the Saudi fellow at the top, she too is probably now saying, "God bless America."