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Saudi Ritz-Carlton reopens after stint as lavish prison

The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh is now open to commoners again, three months after it was first converted into a lavish pr...

Posted: Feb 12, 2018 2:21 AM
Updated: Feb 12, 2018 2:21 AM

The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh is now open to commoners again, three months after it was first converted into a lavish prison for high-profile Saudis.

Guests are again staying at the 492-room hotel, said Shahd Bargouthy, spokeswoman for the Ritz-Carlton in the Middle East.

Hundreds of detainees had been held in the hotel in what the kingdom called an anti-corruption sweep.

The Saudi Information Ministry has not responded to CNN's request for an update on the detainees' status.

The Ritz-Carlton closed its doors to the public in November, when about 200 people -- including business executives, officials and at least 17 princes -- were arrested and given rooms at the five-star hotel as holding cells.

Among the most prominent detainees have been Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman, former royal court head Khaled al-Tuwaijri and Saudi media mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim. Their representatives have not been reachable for comment since the arrests.

Talal owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, which holds stakes in global companies such as Citigroup, Twitter, Apple and News Corp.

In November, the senior Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was released after being detained for three weeks after agreeing to a financial settlement, a source told CNN.

In a November interview with The New York Times, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying that detainees in the anti-corruption sweep generally agreed to financial settlement when presented with evidence against them.

Critics say the sweep is aimed at consolidating the Crown Prince's power base, rather than targeting corruption. Saudi officials have denied those claims.

After the anti-corruption arrests, the kingdom's top legal official said investigations revealed that "at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades."

The expansive Ritz-Carlton includes 52 acres of gardens, two-bedroom royal suites, a gentlemen's-only spa and several high-end restaurants.

It is also where US President Donald Trump stayed during his visit to the kingdom in May. An image of his face was projected on the exterior of the hotel.

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