This is where Saudi princes do prison time
The unusual captivity of the richest man in the Middle East has come to a close.
Billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal was freed Jan. 27, NPR reported. He’d been a prisoner in the five-star Ritz-Carlton Riyadh since Nov. 4, 2017, when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidated power by having 11 princes and numerous government ministers seized.
These captives received better accommodations than a standard prison cell. The royal and non-royal prisoners were reportedly confined to the luxury hotel in the nation’s capital.
The billionaire gave Reuters an interview in the suite where he’d been held for months. He said he was upset about the rumors that he was held in a standard jail and tortured. He said his arrest resulted through a “misunderstanding,” and added that he spent his captivity watching the news, taking walks, swimming, and exercising.
“It’s no problem at all,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”
Here’s a look at the luxury hotel before it was converted into a makeshift prison months ago:
The hotel first opened in 2011 and was the first ever Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia.
It boasts 493 guest rooms, including 49 two-bedroom royal suites and 50 one-bedroom executive suites.
Amenities include a male-only spa, 62,000 square feet of event space, and a bowling alley.
In terms of dining choices, the hotel featured an Italian restaurant, Chinese cuisine, and a buffet style joint.
It’s not the first time the Crown Prince has had dealings with the venue. The Guardian reported that he hosted a “high-profile investment summit” at the hotel just two weeks ago.
But on the night of Nov. 4, 2017, guests of the Ritz-Carlton were told to collect their possessions and booted from the premises, the Guardian reported.
The Guardian reported the hotel is being used to house the high-profile prisoners because it would be considered too “demeaning” to send them to prison.
Business Insider reported the Crown Prince has advocated for a return to “moderate Islam” in the country, but there’s “little transparency” around the arrests, which are ostensibly part of an anti-corruption purge.
The Crown Prince’s targets in this recent roundup included several prominent individuals, including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal — the richest man in the Middle East. Forbes reported he owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, which owns stakes in companies like Twitter and Citigroup.
The Intercept reported some of the non-royal prisoners are being held together in one room and are sleeping on mattresses.
It’s unclear where exactly all of the royal prisoners are being held within the hotel.
When the hotel was initially commandeered, its website ran a message warning prospective guests that the space’s internet and telephone lines are disconnected “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
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