Saudi’s richest man among balance detainees moved from luxury hotel to real jail after he refused to pay Riyadh authorities $6 billion.
The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, a holding place of royals and ministers detained in a sweeping Saudi corruption probe, will re-open for business in February, sources at the hotel said on Monday.
One source, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the press, said there were “preparations to open in February” but could not give further details.
The Ritz-Carlton website now lists rooms as available from February 14.
A hotel employee reached by phone also confirmed to AFP that bookings were available as of mid-February.
Asked why there were no bookings currently available, the employee said local authorities “had the whole hotel (booked) for them”.
The hotel has been closed for business and its phone line disconnected since early November, when more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen were rounded up in an anti-corruption purge.
Most of them have had their assets seized and accounts frozen. They have since been held at the palatial building.
Saudi daily Okaz, which has ties to the monarchy, on Monday quoted an unnamed source as saying a number of high-profile detainees had been released from the Ritz-Carlton over the past 48 hours “after reaching settlements”.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of the king, has reportedly spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family, as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom.
The country’s attorney general has said most of those detained struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom. Authorities say the settlements could earn state coffers about $100 billion.
With its gilded halls and ornate gates, the Ritz-Carlton had for years hosted dignitaries and heads of state visiting Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil.
The most high-profile target of the crackdown was billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia.
He was moved from the Ritz-Carlton where he was being held and placed in the high-security Al Ha’ir prison after refusing to pay Riyadh authorities $6 billion.
It was revealed that he is negotiating a possible settlement with authorities.
But so far he has not agreed to terms, a senior Saudi official said.
Prince Alwaleed, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion, is chairman and owner of international investment firm Kingdom Holding.
“He offered a certain figure but it doesn’t meet the figure required of him, and the attorney-general hasn’t approved it,” the official said on condition of anonymity under government briefing rules.
A second source familiar with Prince Alwaleed’s case told Reuters on Saturday that the prince had offered to make a “donation” to the Saudi government, which would avoid any admission of wrongdoing, and to do so from assets of his own choosing.
The government refused those terms, the source said.
Kingdom Holding’s share price jumped as much as 9.8 percent on Sunday in response to news of the negotiations, adding about $860 million to the company’s capitalisation.
The stock price was still 7 percent below its level just before Prince Alwaleed was detained.
He has for the last two months been held at the Riyadh Ritz with 200 other princes and top officials.
That number dwindled after many former detainees capitulated to the new Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Alwaleed bin Talal was one of the few who held out.
He was hung upside down and beaten during this time.
He reportedly refused to pay the $6 billion bin Salman demanded from him, as well as declining to hand over control of some of his investment companies.
Prince bin Salman came to power last summer. Straight away he began his ‘anti-corruption sweep’, arresting members of the royal family as well as influential officials.
He has since invested heavily in Saudi Arabia’s military defences against Iran.
He also took moves to strengthen ties with the US and Israel, moving to purge the country of anti-Semitic and anti-American Islamic clerics.
The arrest and subsequent incarceration of the 200 princes and top officials – potential roadblocks to his power grab – came as part of his economic reforms.
Earlier this week, the Saudi government seized the bin Laden construction group and arrested some of the bin Laden family – relatives of Osama bin Laden.
Reuters reported the government took over managerial control and may also erase the $29 billion in debt it owes to the company.
Prince bin Salman has so far avoided condemnation from allies in the Trump administration and elsewhere. – Daily Mail