Riyadh's Ritz hotel reopens after corruption crackdown
February 11 2018 05:47 PM
Ritz Carlton hotel
The main entrance of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh which reopened on Sunday.

AFP/Riyadh

Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton welcomed back guests with coffee and dates on Sunday, as it reopened for business three months after becoming a gilded prison for Saudi Arabia's elite in an unprecedented anti-graft purge.
Liveried staff milled around under the ornate chandeliers of the hotel lobby, greeting a trickle of arrivals as they checked into rooms ranging from 2,489 riyals ($664) a night.
The polite welcome was a far cry from the scene on November 4 when police cars surrounded the five-star hotel and its imposing gates clamped shut as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the detention of princes, ministers and tycoons, in a campaign that sent shock waves through business circles. 
Many of the high-profile suspects, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released in recent weeks in exchange for what officials called financial settlements. 
As service resumed at the hotel on Sunday staff appeared to have been instructed not to talk to journalists about the purge. 
"Everything is normal," a smiling hotel employee said. "We served guests then, we are serving guests now. The only difference is the front gates are open."
The opulent hotel, originally built for guests of the royal family, is a far cry from a gritty prison cell -- boasting instead majestic suites and pastel-hued hallways awash with bronze statues and glittering chandeliers.
A source inside the hotel, which hosted US President Donald Trump during a visit last year, earlier told AFP that all detainees had been removed from the property. 
The hotel's executive chef has created a new menu this week for its restaurants, with a "grand buffet" planned next weekend around its large indoor swimming pool, the local Arab News daily reported.
Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in late January that after completing inquiries into 381 high-profile corruption suspects, he would keep 56 in custody and free the rest. It was unclear if the remaining suspects had been moved to a prison facility.
Total settlements with the suspects had topped $107bn in various forms of assets handed over that included property, securities and cash, he said.
Another high-profile detainee, former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was released following a "settlement" with the authorities that reportedly exceeded $1bn.
Prince Mohammed, the 32-year-old son of the king, has spearheaded the crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family over the past three months. 
Just weeks before the campaign, the hotel hosted a glittering investment summit -- dubbed "Davos in the desert" -- which Prince Mohammed used as a platform to pledge a "moderate" Saudi Arabia and to showcase his ambitious reform drive.



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