Riyadh’s Ritz ‘luxury prison’ reopens after graft crackdown

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The gates of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Reuters

RIYADH (AFP) – Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton reopened for business yesterday, three months after it became a holding place for princes and ministers detained in the biggest anti-graft purge of the kingdom’s elite in its modern history.

The luxury hotel had been closed for business since the unprecedented probe was launched on November 4 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has tightened his grip on power since his shock appointment as heir to the throne last June.

A hotel receptionist reached by phone confirmed to AFP that the hotel was open to the public. Another source inside the hotel said the property had no detainees.

Many of the high-profile suspects, including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia – have been released in recent weeks in exchange for what officials have dubbed financial settlements.

Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in late January that after completing inquiries into 381 high-profile corruption suspects, he would keep 56 in custody and free the rest. It was unclear if the remaining suspects had been moved to another facility.

Total settlements with the suspects had topped $107 billion in various forms of assets handed over that included property, securities and cash, he said.

Another high-profile detainee, former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was released following a “settlement” with the authorities that reportedly exceeded $1 billion.

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