x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE officer 'kept unpaid servant in US'

UAE naval officer accused of luring Filipino servant to the US to work for his family, failing to pay her and keeping her confined in his house.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island // A United Arab Emirates naval officer who attends the US Naval War College in Rhode Island was charged Tuesday with luring a Filipino servant to the United States, then failing to pay her and keeping her confined in his house.

During an arraignment in US District Court in Providence, Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali pleaded not guilty to visa fraud and lying to a government official. A federal magistrate judge released him on personal recognizance.

In July, the officer and his family brought a woman from the Philippines to live with them in an off-campus two-storey house when Al-Ali began his studies at the college, said Mary Rogers, an assistant US attorney. The US Naval War College is a Navy-run institution in Newport, Rhode Island, that provides graduate-level military education to officers in US and foreign militaries.

Al-Ali and the Filipino woman, who has not been identified, signed a contract to employ her as a housemaid, working 40 hours a week for $10 per hour.

Instead, Al-Ali didn't pay her, took away her passport, forced her to work seven days a week - often until midnight - and refused to let her leave the family's East Greenwich house alone or talk to anybody outside his family, Rogers said. She said the woman ultimately escaped and now is in hiding.

Al-Ali brought his wife and five children with him from the United Arab Emirates, and the Filipino woman was a nanny who took care of Al-Ali's 4-year-old child, said defence attorney Victoria Walton.

When approached by agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February, Al-Ali showed them a document signed by the woman that showed he had paid her $19,000 in cash for a year's worth of work, Rogers said. The prosecutor said a subsequent investigation found no evidence that Al-Ali had paid the woman, and the woman told federal officials that she had been forced to sign the document.

Walton said misunderstandings and a language barrier may have affected Al-Ali's interaction with federal officials. She called Al-Ali a respected member of his country's navy with no prior criminal record in the US or abroad.

US District Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond denied prosecutors' request to secure $10,000 bail. He did, however, restrict Al-Ali's travel to Rhode Island, with exceptions for trips taken in connection with his classes at the Naval War College, which Walton said will end on June 10.

Almond also ordered that the officer not be given his passport, which defence attorneys said is being held by officials at the United Arab Emirates' embassy in Washington. He scheduled a hearing to discuss what will happen once Al-Ali's courses end and his visa expires.

Benjamin Caldwell, another attorney for Al-Ali, declined to comment on the decision after the arraignment.

Al-Ali will continue his studies at the college, said Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the college.