Eight princesses from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been convicted of human trafficking and given fines and suspended prison terms by a Belgian court.
The Brussels criminal court on Friday handed the eight women — a mother and her seven daughters — from Abu Dhabi’s ruling Al Nahyan family 15-month suspended sentences for human trafficking and degrading treatment of their servants, said the princesses’ lawyer, Stephen Monod, in a statement.
“Belgian justice has appropriately assessed this case which has generated many misconceptions,” he added.
Sheikha Hamda al-Nahyan and her daughters were accused of abusing more than 20 female servants, whom they had brought along while staying at the luxury Conrad Hotel in the Belgian capital for several months back in 2007 and 2008.
The royals from one of the most influential families in the UAE and one of the richest in the world faced accusations of “inhumane” treatment because they reportedly subjected their servants to pander to their desires for long stretches of time, sometimes lasting 24 hours a day, for little or no money.
They were also accused of not allowing the maids enough food, forcing them to eat off their leftovers and preventing them from sleeping on beds and leaving the hotel. The case came to light after one of the servants managed to escape the prison-like hotel and complained to Belgian police.
The trafficking accusation was leveled as the royals had refused to obtain visas for the servants.
The ultra-rich women were found guilty for human trafficking but were acquitted of the more serious charge of inhuman treatment. However, the court ordered them to pay a fine of $185,000 each, with half the sum suspended.
The princesses, who did not appear in court throughout the proceedings, have rejected all the charges.