Saudi purge

Saudi billionaire and his fellow princes photographed sleeping on bare mattresses after ‘corruption’ arrests as Trump says they ‘have been milking their country for years!

RIYADH: Asleep on the floor of their ‘luxury’ five star prison 11 Saudi princes, government ministers and businessmen await their fate following their arrest in the biggest anti-corruption purge of the kingdom’s modern history.

Shocking photos of arrested Saudi princes show them sleeping on bare mattresses in a five star hotel of Riyadh. The photos do not show the face of any of the men but claims that the arrested men were being held at the Ritz Carlton have circulated widely.

The princes were photographed being wrapped in blankets and sleeping on thin mattresses inside the glittering rooms of the hotel which has been turned into a prison after emptying it from guests.

The men including some of country’s most powerful appear to be sleeping in the same room which last month hosted the Future Investment Conference.

Among those who used the event to highlight the kingdom’s future was Middle East’s richest men Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – who now finds himself sleeping on its floor. Moreover; the hotel also hosted US President Donald Trump on his first foreign trip earlier this year and met the crown prince.

Saudi sources say that among those photographed in the room are billionaire investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who is a nephew of the king, worth an estimated $18 billion and owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.

Those arrested have been locked in the five star hotel as the sweeping anti-corruption probe ordered by Saudi King Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, continues.

He is being held along with 10 other princes and 38 officials following an historic weekend shakeup of the Kingdom’s royal family.

The reshuffling happened as Saudi King Salman swore in new officials to replace those arrested. Rumours swirled the royals were receiving five-star accommodations when the Ritz Carlton was evacuated Saturday. But our photo shows their sleeping arrangements are far from luxurious – treatment few among the group will be used to.

Ironically they are huddled on the floor of one of the grand function rooms which last month played host to the Future Investment Conference, a gathering of world business leaders which Prince Mohammed used to highlight his commitment to turning Saudi Arabia to ‘moderate Islam’ – and which some of those arrested attended.

Al-Waleed used the conference to speak about the flotation of oil giant Saudi Aramco – words which may well be his last in public life. The hotel also played host to Donald Trump when he visited the kingdom, on his first foreign trip earlier this year, and it was where he met the crown prince. The arrests that began late Saturday included Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for the past four years had led the National Guard, and Prince Adel Fakeih, who was minister of economy since April.

Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne, though he has not been thought of recently as a challenger to Prince Mohammed. The men were reportedly arrested in a crackdown that the attorney general described as ‘phase one’. Prince Al-Waleed is accused of money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, an official told Reuters on Sunday.

The campaign of arrests lengthens an already daunting list of challenges undertaken by the 32-year-old king since his father, King Salman, ascended the throne in 2015. Those include going to war in Yemen, cranking up Riyadh’s confrontation with arch-foe Iran and reforming the economy to lessen its reliance on oil.

Both allies and adversaries are quietly astounded that a kingdom once obsessed with stability has acquired such a taste for assertive policy-making. ‘The kingdom is at a crossroads: Its economy has flatlined with low oil prices; the war in Yemen is a quagmire; the blockade of Qatar is a failure; Iranian influence is rampant in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq; and the succession is a question mark,’ wrote ex-CIA official Bruce Riedel for Reuters. ‘It is the most volatile period in Saudi history in over a half-century.’

The crackdown has drawn no public opposition within the kingdom either on the street or on social media. Many ordinary Saudis applauded the arrests, the latest in a string of domestic and international moves asserting the prince’s authority. But abroad, critics perceive the purge as further evidence of intolerance from a power-hungry leader keen to stop influential opponents blocking his economic reforms or reversing the expansion of his political clout.

Prominent Saudi columnist Jamal Kashoggi applauded the campaign, but warned: ‘He is imposing very selective justice.’

                     Who is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal?

* The 62-year-old controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men.

* He has major stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, Motorola and many other well-known companies.

* He has recently given interviews to the Western media on subjects such as crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco.

* The prince has also recently sparred publicly with US President Donald Trump, calling Mr Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America” in a Twitter message in 2015.

* Mr Trump fired back, also on Twitter, that “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed-Talal wants to control our US politicians with daddy’s money”.

* The billionaire is something of an outsider within the royal family – not a dissident, but an unusually outspoken figure on a variety of issues.

* He openly supported women driving long before the kingdom said it would grant them the right to do so, and he has long employed women in his orbit.

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