Check Out the 5-Star Riyadh Hotel That Was Used as a Prison for Billionaires
When you think about the Ritz-Carlton, you typically don’t think prison, but the Ritz in Riyadh was recently turned into the most luxurious prison in the world. The detainees’ crime? Corruption. Read on to learn about how and why one of the most lavish hotels in the world got turned into a prison for corrupt princes and businessmen.
1. The Ritz-Carlton Riyadh
The Riyadh Ritz-Carlton boasts such features as a state-of-the-art conference space, six luxury dining options, a high-end bowling alley, and a gentlemen’s spa that offers “an array of treatments.” In the Saudi kingdom, it’s considered the most prestigious luxury hotel. But on November 4, 2017, it transformed into the most prestigious luxury hotel prison. BBC were the first journalists allowed inside the hotel-turned-prison, and you can see for yourself, the facility definitely still looks more like a luxury hotel than a prison.
Next: Prince Mohamed is leading the crackdown on corruption.
2. An anti-corruption crackdown
Dozens of prominent Saudi figures, including at least 11 princes, were being detained in the most luxurious prison in the world as part of an anti-corruption movement started by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. The prominent prisoners were detained for such crimes as abuse of power, corruption, and money laundering. Though the full list of names was never officially released, we know Prince Alwaleed, retail billionaire Fawaz Al Hokair, head of the royal court Khalid al-Tuwaijri, and Prince Turki bin Nasser were all kept at The Ritz-Carlton.
Next: The prisoners have been released.
3. There are currently no more detainees
As of January 23, 2018, there are no more detainees being held at the Ritz. According to an exclusive interview given by Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, about 90 people were released after they agreed to pay back their illegally attained money. Those who didn’t reach an agreement will be referred to a public prosecutor, according to Bloomberg.
Next: Who’s guilty
4. Just because someone reached a financial agreement doesn’t mean he’s necessarily guilty
“The allegations against Prince Alwaleed were never formally made public, though a senior official said at the time of his detention that he was accused of money laundering, bribery and extortion. The billionaire maintained his innocence in an interview with Reuters before his release, saying all his dealings had been appropriate. The senior official disputed the prince’s account, saying settlements ‘don’t happen unless the accused acknowledges violations and documents that in writing and pledges that he won’t repeat them,'” reported Bloomberg. It’s not highly unlikely that Prince Alwaleed is indeed innocent, as well as other former detainees.
Next: Investors are concerned about the lack of transparency.
5. How foreign investors are feeling
The detentions obviously raised concerns for foreign investors, especially about the lack of transparency from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who never officially released the names of the suspects.
“Companies of people associated under the anti-corruption crackdown would be under extra scrutiny from investors till such time the findings of such a crackdown are clear,” said Senior Institutional Sales Broker at Securities & Investment Company in Bahrain Kunal Damle. “The positives for the business are that from the face of it, it looks like it is business as usual for the companies.”
Next: Some are questioning whether the punishment was severe enough.
6. Can Prince Mohammed really put an end to corruption?
Young Prince Mohammed organized this detention with the intention of cracking down on corruption. He wanted to start from scratch and send a message. Despite his intentions, some are questioning how things can really change if those who were detained were allowed to return to their normal positions after their time at the Ritz, especially after it wasn’t made totally clear who was guilty and who was innocent.
Next: Saudi officials say the purge should level the playing field with investors.
7. What Saudi officials think
“Saudi officials attending the World Economic Forum in Davos last week said the purge was designed to level the playing field among investors. They say Prince Mohammed had no choice but to press ahead with the campaign to eradicate corruption if his plan to transform the Saudi economy was to work,” reported Bloomberg. “The attorney general said this is not the end of the anti-corruption drive.”
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!