TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – When US President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia last May, the Saudis celebrated his arrival by projecting a multi-story image of his face on Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, now that luxury oasis has become the world’s fanciest prison as a sweeping Royal purge continues.
The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh was requisitioned over the weekend to house the princes, government ministers, and members of the military who were arrested by a so-called anti-corruption committee helmed by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose rapid rise and consolidation of power has raised eyebrows in the kingdom and around the world.
Included in the group of detainees is billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose net worth of about $10 billion makes him one of the world’s wealthiest men.
On Monday, images and videos began to appear on Twitter of the Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom B, which appears to have been set up with floor mats and flowery blankets. A machine gun rests against one wall.
Media reports said the hotel’s paying guests were roused from their rooms and hustled from the restaurant. They were told to gather in the lobby with their items and were then ushered onto vehicles and whisked off to other hotels.
Meanwhile, the newly arrested princes and ministers — who are used to a level of luxury most of the world cannot imagine — were bused to the Ritz-Carlton. They may be relatively comfortable, as detainees go, but they are, as of now, denied freedom of movement. Some 30 are housed at the Ritz, the New York Times reported, but in all as many as 500 may have been arrested in the anti-corruption sweep.
The website of the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh still appears ready to take reservations, though an attempt to reserve this coming evening found no available rooms. And yet the welcome blurb now seems surreal, in light of the prisoners housed there:
The arrests have sent a ripple of anxiety through the kingdom — especially as other members of the royal family, even those not detained, have now been denied the right to leave Saudi Arabia. This is a crowd that takes pride in frequent international travel. All of that’s on hold for now.
Prince Mohammed, the king’s 32-year-old son, already serves as defense minister and was named heir to the throne in a June reshuffle that sidelined his older cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who had also served as interior minister.
He has been responsible at the same time for running Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy with global implications and behind the plans for the kingdom to build a future after oil.
Prince Mohammed, who has pledged to go after graft at the highest levels, is now also heading up the new anti-corruption body, which was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and freeze assets.