January 24, 2019
The Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, [File photo]
The Saudi government has released some of the remaining detainees who were held in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh more than a year ago, sources confirmed to the US newspaper the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
Businessman Amr Dabbagh – chairman and chief executive of a family conglomerate, and former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, and two management consultants: Hani Khoja and Sami Al-Zuhaibi, who were co-founders of a consultancy firm which the Saudi government had contracted to assist with designing social and economic reforms as part of the country’s Vision 2030 to end dependency on oil revenues, were named as the three men released from what has become known as the gilded prison.
In November 2017, hundreds of businessmen, ministers and members of the royal family were detained under orders from Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as part of what Saudi billed as a purge “against corruption”. Throughout the ensuing months, most of the detainees were freed after agreeing to settlements which amounted to a net of more than $100 billion. The Saudi finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, however, told Reuters that the cash settlements overall had generated around $13 billion in 2018.
The allegations against the three detainees and the terms of their release remain unclear, as the public prosecutor has not yet provided an update on the anti-corruption campaign for nearly a year. As a result, some sectors of the country’s economy has been impacted or even stalled, such as the Saudi private jet industry.
It is unclear how long the anti-corruption purge will continue, but Crown Prince Mohammed told the US media company Bloomberg in October last year that there were only eight people still being detained at the hotel.
The news of the newly released detainees comes a month after a former detainee at the Ritz-Carlton, Ibrahim Al-Assaf, was promoted to the position of the kingdom’s foreign minister.