Saudi Arabia has reopened its opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, more than three months after converting it into a gilded prison for hundreds of royals, government officials, and businessmen as part of a purge.
Over the past year, the hotel has hosted President Donald Trump on his first state visit abroad for a $110 billion arms deal and then the Saudi elite who had to cough up more than $106 billion in “settlements”.
After Trump’s visit, the kingdom shuttered the gates of the luxury hotel and hauled in dozens of princes, former ministers and business tycoons who had to cut deals with the authorities for their release.
Ten days before the purge, the Ritz hosted an international business conference which drew many of the kingdom’s entrepreneurs but they later ended up as detainees.
Foremost among them were top Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. Reports said the latter, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, was freed after agreeing to pay over $1 billion.
Prince Alwaleed also bought his release but the terms were not divulged.
The purge was carried out by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who arranged to seize more than $106 billion through the settlements, according to the attorney general.
His campaign under the anti-corruption cover has been viewed as a shakedown and power play by many critics, but its link to the record arms deal with the United States has largely been neglected.
Prince Mohammed is wielding unremitting power and is the next in line to rule Saudi Arabia after having his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef stripped of the role as heir apparent and removed from his post as interior minister in June.
The ailing 82-year-old King Salman has been reportedly suffering from partial dementia and is said to be contemplating an abdication in favor of his son.
On Sunday, a handful of smart-suited businessmen, forced to decamp to other hotels since November, reportedly returned to 492-room Ritz where the lowest rate is 2,439 riyals ($650) a night.
About the purge, one foreign consultant was quoted as saying by Reuters that “you forget about it as soon as you’re in your room and you get lost in your own bubble.”