By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – BBC cameras were granted exclusive access to film inside the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where more than 200 Saudi dignitaries are being held on corruption and money laundering charges following a massive purge led by Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salmane (MBS).
It is in this most “prestigious of luxury hotels” that MBS has shut up about 200 dignitaries and top officials of the Saudi kingdom who are accused of corruption, money-laundering, extortion, and abuse of their position.
The list of detainees is still unknown but it is said to comprise at least 11 princes, among whom the billionaire Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal.
BBC journalist Lyse Douce was given access by Saudi authorities but was instructed not to film faces or record conversations.
“As far as detention centers go, this one is beyond compare: luxury swimming pools, restaurants, a gym… everything is glittering,” said the reporter.
The news outlet reported that when the highly-ranking officials were brought to the hotel on November 4, they were “understandably angry.”
“Some of them thought this would just be a show and it wouldn’t last, but when they realised they were here to stay they were furious,” she added.
The “inmates” are free to move inside the hotel, but they are not allowed to leave the “gilded prison.” Their cell phones were seized, but they have telephone lines that allow them to get in touch with their lawyers, families, and the managers of their affairs.
According to the BBC, 95 percent of those locked up are willing to “make deals” and negotiate their exit for very large sums of money, 1 percent have been cleared by the investigation, and 4 percent have opted for a judicial procedure.
Several news outlets reported that the “exit fee” will amount to 70 percent of the disputed sums, which will represent at least USD 100 billion paid to kingdom.
The Saudi state hopes that by the end of the year, all detainees will be free.