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5-star prison: Arrested Saudi princes, ministers held in Ritz Carlton

The hotel is temporarily serving as a luxury prison where some of the kingdom’s political and business elite are being held.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2017 13:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Saudi Arabia,Saudi Arabia arrests,Ritz Carlton
The arrested Saudi princes, businessmen and government ministers are being held at Ritz Carlton, according to reports. (Picture courtesy: Ritz Carlton official website )

Two weeks ago, the glitzy Ritz Carlton hotel inRiyadh was the site of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination, with over 3,000 officials and business leaders in attendance.

Now the hotel is temporarily serving as a luxury prison where some of the kingdom’s political and business elite are being held as part of a crackdown on corruption that may change the way the economy works.

Government ministers, businessmen and many royals were being held inside Ballroom B of the luxury hotel, the New York Time reported on Monday. A video circulating online purportedly showed rows of detainees sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the palatial hotel while security personnel stood guard.

The Times said some VIPs have also been held in rooms at the Ritz.

An attempt to book a room on the hotel’s official website says “not available for check-ins”.  

By detaining dozens of officials and tycoons, a new anti-corruption body headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking to dismantle systems of patronage and kickbacks that have distorted the Saudi economy for decades.

For many, the most shocking aspect of the purge has been the detention of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the flamboyant, internationally known chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding.

The names of other detainees have been equally stunning: Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of the Al Tayyar Travel group; billionaire Saleh Kamel; and Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the huge Saudi Binladin construction conglomerate.

But it is a risky process, because the crackdown is hurting some of the kingdom’s top private businessmen -- leaders of family conglomerates who have built much of the non-oil economy over the past few decades.

An article in The Guardian said demeaning a royal by putting him in prison could have implications as the society is branched into tribes.

“He couldn’t have put them in the jail,” the report quoted a senior official as saying. “And he (Crown Prince) would have known that. So this was the most dignified solution he could find.”

The arrests are being viewed widely as an attempt by the Crown Prince to neuter any opposition to his lightening ascent to the pinnacle of power. But admirers see it as an assault on the endemic theft of public funds in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy where the state and the ruling family are intertwined.

(With Reuters inputs)

First Published: Nov 08, 2017 13:00 IST