- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered dramatic round-up of top princes and ministers in ‘corruption probe’
- Donald Trump, on an extended tour of the Middle East, tweeted full-scale support for the crackdown saying: ‘Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!’
- But it is widely being seen as part of palace coup to guarantee his power base with the heads of the country’s national guard and navy also arrested
- Some of them were in the hotel last month when it hosted international business figures for an investment conference but are now are detained in the rooms.
Security guards are seen lying down inside Ritz Carlton as detained VIPs stay in the rooms provided in what could be described as a ‘Luxury Prison’.
The men are seen gathered together at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, inside one of its glittering function rooms – wrapped in blankets and sleeping on thin mattresses.
Saudi sources say that among the VIPs in the rooms are billionaire investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who is a nephew of the king, worth an estimated $18 billion and owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.
The photograph was revealed as President Trump went all-in supporting the man who ordered the mass arrests, Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the ferociously ambition 32-year-old heir to the throne.
In two tweets sent as he prepared to leave Japan for South Korea on a lengthy Asian tour, he said: ‘I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing….
‘….Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!’
The intervention places the U.S. squarely behind the crown prince and may be partly personally motivated: Prince Al-Waleed was a vocal personal critic of Trump in the run-up to his election.
Those arrested have been locked in the five star hotel as the sweeping anti-corruption probe ordered by Saudi King Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, continues.
He is being held along with 10 other princes and 38 officials following an historic weekend shakeup of the Kingdom’s royal family.
The reshuffling happened as Saudi King Salman swore in new officials to replace those arrested. Rumors swirled the royals were receiving five-star accommodations when the Ritz Carlton was evacuated Saturday.
The guards were huddled on the floor of one of the grand function rooms which last month played host to the Future Investment Conference, a gathering of world business leaders which Prince Mohammed used to highlight his commitment to turning Saudi Arabia to ‘moderate Islam’ – and which some of those arrested attended.
Al-Waleed used the conference to speak to CNBC about the flotation of oil giant Saudi Aramco – words which may well be his last in public life.
The hotel also played host to Donald Trump when he visited the kingdom, on his first foreign trip earlier this year, and it was where he met the crown prince.
The arrests that began late Saturday included Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for the past four years had led the National Guard, and Prince Adel Fakeih, who was minister of economy since April.
Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne, though he has not been thought of recently as a challenger to Prince Mohammed.
The men were reportedly arrested in a crackdown that the attorney general described as ‘phase one’.
Prince Al-Waleed is accused of money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, an official told Reuters on Sunday.