Americans among those detained in Saudi Prince's anti-corruption crackdown
Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman's anti-corruption crackdown on November 4 saw 11 of his fellow princes and uncles arrested, as well as around 320 other businessmen. It has now emerged that Americans, Britons, and French citizens are among those detained.
Since Prince Mohammed Bin Salman came to power in Saudi Arabia, he has engaged in a series of brutal anti-corruption crackdowns that have seen some of the country's most recognizable and powerful faces put behind bars. According to a report by Daily Mail, it has now emerged that amongst those detained, are also eight American, six Briton, and three French businessmen.
According to Daily Mail's sources, these men are being held in the posh, 5-star Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and were in the country on work permits, giving the impression that they are long-time expatriate citizens, rather than some random visiting businessmen.
However, the 5-star hotel is just a guise to draw the least amount of suspicion. These prisoners are reportedly being made to sleep on thin mattresses on a function room's floor, with the source telling that they were being beaten, slapped, insulted, and tortured in a bid to get any information out of them.
When a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington was reached out to, she claimed that the country's public prosecutor was 'complying with the relevant laws and regulations' over the arrests, without confirming or denying whether any non-Saudis were amongst those detained.
Detained foreign nationals have a right to contact their embassy seeking assistance, but the US, French, and the UK's respective departments either say they have not received any requests for help or decline to comment.
The US State Department said it could not comment on individual cases due to 'privacy considerations,' with a spokesperson saying: "When we are notified of the arrest of a US citizen, we immediately seek to visit him or her. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment." Similarly, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they have not been contacted by any British citizens for assistance, and the French Foreign Office did not offer any comment.
Around 40,000 Americans are believed to work in Saudi in either the oil industry or related sectors, with the British and French community numbering around 25,000. Others work as teachers or in the service of expatriate communities. Arrests of any of these expatriate citizens would be highly unusual and would likely have severe repercussions on the relations between these countries.
The Prince has not shied away from taking what others would view as bold moves since he came to power, locking up several of his uncles and fellow princes - 11 to be precise - as well as several hundred businessmen in a corruption crackdown on November 4; the total figure of those arrested is supposedly 320. Amongst those detained are Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Saud, Waleed bin Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, and Saleh Abdullah Kamel.
Prince Al-Waleed is one of the more shocking inclusions, considering his status in the country - he is the grandson of Ibn Saud, the first-ever Saudi king, and is the 57th richest person in the world with a net worth of $18.9 billion. Known as the 'Arabian Warren Buffet,' he is Citigroup's largest shareholder and also holds stakes in 21st Century Fox, Uber, and Twitter. Waleed bin Ibrahim was the first commercially successful TV channel owner in the Middle East and Saleh Abdullah, with a net worth of $2.1 billion, is the chairman and founder of the Dallah al Baraka Group (DBHC). All were taken in on charges varying from money laundering, to bribery, to extorting officials.
Prince Al-Waleed was also reportedly hung upside down and beaten to have an example made out of him, in what many believe to be a consolidation of power rather than an anti-corruption crackdown. Furthermore, a report by The Wall Street Journal claims that the Saudi government wants $6 billion from the prince to secure his release. The move would not be unprecedented, with Prince Mutaib Bin Abdullah, the son of the late King Abdullah and head of the country’s National Guard, having paid $1 billion for his release last month.
But unlike Prince Mutaib, Al-Waleed is said to have refused to pay the fee for his release because he feels that would amount to an admission of guilt. That figure was also likely to cripple his vastly successful business empire that he has spent his life building. Instead, Prince Al-Waleed wants a proper investigation; something that he will find hard to come across.
The Saudi government claims that the high-profile detainees, who have now been stripped of their titles, have admitted to systemic bribery and grafting which, according to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has resulted in a loss of revenue to the country amounting to $800 billion. The prosecutors are therefore looking for a figure around the $100 billion mark in settlements from the numerous royals charged with corruption.
According to the crown prince, the crackdown has had the desired results, with him telling the New York Times that 95% of those suspects charged with corruption agreeing to a settlement. He also said that around 1% had been able to prove their innocence and had their charges dropped, with the last 4% claiming that they are not corrupt and wanting lawyers.
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 November 2017
....Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 November 2017
Despite the unlawful nature of the detainment, the crackdown drew praise from U.S president Donald Trump, who tweeted: "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!"
Sources in Saudi Arabia who claim to know the crown prince well say that some of the money from the settlement could be used to underwrite his ambitious NEOM project, the $500 billion high-tech metropolis. The funds could also go towards repairing the country's $79 billion budget deficit, a figure that has continued to grow with dropping oil prices and the recession in the country.
But others are not too sure whether the prince will be using these funds for his own personal gain. A few weeks ago, it was revealed that he was the buyer of the world's most expensive painting - he had spent an eye-watering $450.3 million on Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi. It was also similarly revealed that he was the buyer of a French chateau that became the world's most expensive property when it was sold for $300 million in 2015.
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