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Mar 13, 2018 01:25 PM IST | Source:

Saudi Arabia's elite are now living a life akin to prisoners

In November last year, many influential persons were detained at the Ritz Carlton in Saudi Arabia by a decree of the Monarch King Salman and executed by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.

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Saudi Arabia’s elite — prominent industry leaders and members of the royal family — are facing physical abuse, losing control of their assets, and are having their movements closely monitored by the authorities.

According to a New York Times report, many of these businessmen are forced to wear ankle braclets tracking their movements. They have lost most of their personal wealth, their bank accounts frozen and some continue to be out of contact with their families in the name of a crackdown on corruption in November last year. Their spouses and children are also not allowed to travel.

In November last year, many influential persons were detained at the Ritz Carlton in Saudi Arabia by a decree of the Monarch King Salman and executed by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.

The detainees were allowed no outside contact, not even with their families until much later. They were also not allowed to access to the internet, or their bank accounts. Many of these people were subjected to physical and mental abuse. Close to 17 of them were hospitalised.

They were forced sign off large assets over to the government’s coffers.

The Government of Saudi Arabia’s statement to New York Times on Sunday was that all such allegations were “absolutely untrue.”

Most of these persons have been released but under severe restrictions.

The article said that many of these detainees had to write off large sums to the government to secure their release. They also had to give away many of their personal assets in the form of real estate and personal stock options without any such legal process.

The government is yet to officially take over these assets, putting these families in a great amount of uncertainty.

Other reports state that the Kingdom have taken over the bank accounts of the detainees, handing over USD 26,000 to meet monthly expenses.

The government has been keeping mum on the issue, citing privacy laws. The report points out that due to the lack of transparency in these processes, the move could be the part of an ongoing feud met in the guise of tackling corruption.

The current Monarch, King Salman, is the brother of the previous monarch King Abdullah. After his death, his children received an inheritance through a charity foundation called the Abdullah Foundation.

The foundation amounted to billions of dollars which was meant to finance projects in the name of the king and provide for his heirs. The foundation gave close to USD 340 million for each of the late King’s sons and USD 200 million for his daughters.

The Crown Prince aims to get hold of that money, stating that the amounts were acquired by circumventing the authorities.

Prince Turki is the administrator of the foundation. He is also a son of the late king. Turki was removed from his post as the governor of Riyadh in 2015 and is still detained following the Ritz episode. His siblings and other family members are not allowed to travel outside the country, while some continue to be in London fearing of the conseqeunces of coming back.

Prince Mutaib, brother of Prince Turki and leader of the national guard was also stipped off his post.

General Qahtani, a close aide of Prince Turki, was also detained at the Ritz. Although personally not wealthy, he died while in custody. The report also spoke of lab tests pointing to bruises and his neck being twisted in an unnatural manner.

There was also talks of how MBC — the Arab world’s largest media outlet, was also strong-armed into being handed over to the authorities. Waleed al-Ibrahim, MBC’s chairman, was one of the detainees who was released in January after being giving up control of the company to the Kingdom with the help of PWC and the British law firm Clifford Chance acting as intermediaries.

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