The richest man in Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has been detained at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton for over two months — and now it seems the Saudi government is losing patience with him.
Bin Talal was arrested along with 200 princes and top officials of Saudi Arabia in November in what the Saudi government calls an “anti-corruption” crackdown. However, signs of things becoming more serious came after it was rumored the princes were hung upside down from ceiling and beaten by interrogators. Now, Middle East Monitor reports bin Talal, along with 10 other princes, has been moved from his confined quarters at the snazzy Ritz-Carlton and transferred to Al Ha’ir prison.
Granted, the prison is no concentration camp but it has housed political activists and terrorism suspects and the new secure, secluded location bodes ill for bin Talal.
Saudi officials said they want to recall around $100 billion of funds from the elites languishing in the Ritz-Carlton which they believe rightfully belong to the state. Many of the prisoners have already bought their freedom with “donations” to the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
However, bin Talal has been balking at the idea of surrendering $6 billion and control of some of his investment companies to bin Salman, who is reportedly demanding that much from him.
The allegations against the prince include bribery, money laundering and extorting officials, according to Reuters.
But now the crown prince, who wants to cut deals quickly, is reportedly running out of patience with bin Talal.
The 62-year-old tycoon has a net worth of $17 billion, according to Forbes magazine but all his wealth hasn’t managed to get him any loyal friends. One of the most striking aspects of his arrest remains how silent his friends in the West are, except for two former French president expressing concerns over his arrest — which doesn’t amount to much.
His transfer to Al Ha’ir prison — if the news is indeed true — drives the point even more home that bin Talal is running out of time to demand a trial or get a better deal. His friends have abandoned him and any outcry or international reprisal he may have been expecting isn’t forthcoming.
It seems bin Talal is now at the mercy of the Saudi government — which has never been known to be merciful.
Thumbnail/Banner : REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer