Eight princesses from Abu Dhabi’s ruling al-Nahyan family were each given a 15-month suspended prison sentence and fined 165,000 euros ($185,000) on Friday after a court in Belgium found them guilty of human trafficking and abusing their servants.
The case dates back to July 2008, when Princess Shekha Alnehayan, and her seven daughters rented an entire floor of Brussels’ Conrad Hotel for several months and brought more than 20 servants with them.
According to the prosecution, the workers were “treated like slaves” and forced to attend to the princesses’ every wish 24 hours a day, while not being given enough food or beds to sleep in. Prosecutors said the princesses had also confiscated their passports and refused to pay their salaries.
Authorities were made aware of the degrading conditions after one servant managed to flee the hotel and report the case to the police, who subsequently raided the hotel.
Sheikha Hamda al-Nahyan and her seven daughters, including their Indian butler. who didn’t attend the trial denied all the charges.
Their lawyer, Stephen Monod, said he was “satisfied to note that the Belgian justice has appropriately assessed this case which has generated many misconceptions for nearly 10 years”.
He was unable to confirm that his clients would pay their fines, saying they had not yet decided whether to appeal.