Detained Saudi princes sleeping on floor of their Ritz-Carlton Hotel 'jail': Report

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Two weeks ago the glitzy Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh was the site of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination. Now the hotel is temporarily serving as a luxury prison for some of the kingdom's political elite.
The Saudi princes arrested in the high-profile purge by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz are detained in a large function room at Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh. PHOTO: AFP

RIYADH - Their detention centre may be the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh.

But the Saudi princes arrested in the high-profile purge by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Saturday are not getting the luxury treatment they are used to, it seems.

A photo obtained by British tabloid Daily Mail apparently shows them sleeping on mattresses on the floor next to each other in a large function room in the hotel.

The tabloid cited sources saying one of them was billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, nephew of the king, whose net worth is estimated at US$18 billion (S$24.5 billion).

At least 11 princes, government ministers and businessmen are said to be detained in the room after the king ordered the arrest of nearly 20 of the richest and most influential men in the country in an unprecedented purge supposedly aimed at rooting out corruption. Some 38 officials were also taken in.

Daily Mail said it was given the photo by sources within the Saudi government.

Reuters and the Wall Street Journal first reported that some of those arrested were being held at the hotel, which two weeks ago, had hosted 3,000 investors from around the world at an investment conference promoting Saudi Arabia as a destination for their money.

CNN said the 492-room hotel was fully booked until the end of November, and the hotel said it would only start taking reservations in December.

The news site also reported tweets saying guests were forced to leave the hotel over the weekend.

Reuters reported that the hotel's main gate was shuttered on Sunday morning and guards turned away a reporter, saying it had been closed for security reasons, although private cars and ambulances were seen entering through a rear entrance.

On Monday, the hotel's webpage said: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, the hotel's internet and telephone lines are currently disconnected until further notice."

The purge comes amid a widening crackdown on corruption by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is aiming to dismantle Saudi's old system of patronage and kick-backs as he sets up as a new anti-corruption body and consolidates power.

Besides Prince Alwaleed, former Riyadh Governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a board member of national oil giant Saudi Aramco, were also detained on accusations of corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Other detainees include ousted Economy Minister Adel Fakieh and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah.

Reuters reported that Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the big Saudi Binladin construction group, and Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network, were also arrested.

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