The last members of the nearly 200 Saudi elite – including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and at least 10 other princes – have either been freed or moved to other, more permanent (and probably less comfortable) detention centers – after three months of reportedly brutal interrogations left at least one casualty from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s “corruption crackdown/cash grab.”
Bin Talal, one of the richest prisoners caught up in the crackdown, reportedly paid $6 billion for his freedom after the resistant prince was briefly moved to the state’s highest security prison, along with about 60 other detainees. It’s not clear how many remain.
But regardless of what happens to the royals who have refused to hand over their money – or perhaps don’t have enough liquid assets to satisfy their zealous relative – the Riyadh Ritz Carlton, the primary backdrop for the drama that has unfolded over the past few months, has reopened to the public.
And presumably, all the trappings of its temporary status as the world’s most luxurious prison, have been swept away to comfortably accommodate the legions of foreign businessmen (remember, they’re almost all men) who reside their during visits to the kingdom.
Still, according to a description provided by Bloomberg, guests are staying away.
Authorities locked up dozens of princes, officials and billionaires in the palatial hotel for about three months in the government’s declared crackdown on corruption. The first phase of the purge ended last month, with officials reaching settlement deals valued at more than $100 billion with many of those held in return for not pressing formal charges against them.
Word of the hotel’s return to normal service, however, seemed slow to spread.
At around 10 am on Sunday, not a single car was seen in the expansive garden outside the hotel. The lobby was almost empty, except for a couple sitting at one table.
The management declined to discuss occupancy levels. Customers could book rooms starting from Sunday, with a Deluxe room going for as low as 2,439 riyals ($650), according to the hotel’s website.
Now that MbS’s three-month reign of terror is over, and the kingdom is a cool $100 billion richer, the international press can go back to focusing on the story that really matters: whether the House of Saud will finally move ahead with an Aramco IPO, or a private-share offering to the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds.
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