A prison for princes: The Ritz-Carlton's Saudi Arabian scandal

Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the lavish property.

November 10, 2017 08:53
2 minute read.

Images of Saudi Princeses being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)

Images of Saudi Princeses being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)


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Saudi Princes tweeted images of their de facto prison in the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.

Shaky video uploaded to social media appears to show mattresses and a gun in a large room in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel, the building where top officials are said to be held following their arrests in a Saudi Arabian anti-corruption purge.

Images that appeared on Twitter show pictures of armed guards, Saudi officials and Saudi princes sharing a ballroom lined with mattresses.

Also, in what could perhaps be described as an oddly-timed public relations stunt, the Ritz-Carlton's official Twitter account posted pictures featuring their location in Jeddah, another major city in Saudi Arabia, showing off high-class food and amenities with the hashtag #Jeddah on Thursday. It is a strange coincidence that they would showcase that property while national royalty are being detained in the Ritz's other Saudi location.

Saudi banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the kingdom, bankers and lawyers said on Tuesday.

Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain.

Among business executives detained in the probe were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding; Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel; and Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of builder Red Sea International.

The overall picture of the shakeup in Saudi Arabia is that if affects numerous high profile people. According to a list tweeted by policy analyst and visiting professor at the University of Miami Rula Jebreal, it includes Prince Mitaib bin Abdullah, Minister of the National Guard; Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh; and Khaled Al-Tuwaijri, former president of the Royal Court, as well as a p of other former ministers of labor and finance, chiefs of the investment authority, a former head of Saudi Arabian airlines and the CEO of the Bin Ladin Group and Saudi Telecom.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, was quoted in Daily Sabah saying that MBS is setting his sights to remain in power for decades. He is “remaking the kingdom in his own image and signaling a potentially significant move away from the consensual balancing of competing interests that characterized Saudi rule in the past.”

Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.

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