Saudi Elite, All Released Today, Were Reportedly Arrested for Refusing to Make 'Patriotic Contributions'

News signals that Saudi Arabia's three-month-old purge, in which dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained by investigators who said they aimed to seize some $100 billion of illicit assets, is drawing to a close

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman attends the Annual Horse Race ceremony, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 30, 2017.
\ HANDOUT/REUTERS

Saudi Arabian authorities have released all remaining detainees from Riyadh's opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which had been used as an interrogation center in a crackdown on corruption, a Saudi official said on Tuesday. 

The news signaled that the three-month-old purge, in which dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained by investigators who said they aimed to seize some $100 billion of illicit assets, was drawing to a close. 

Social media video shows hotel where Saudi officials being held Haaretz/Reuters

"There are no longer any detainees left at the Ritz-Carlton," the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing rules. 

He did not say how many suspects remained in detention at other locations in Saudi Arabia. Some are believed to have been moved from the Ritz to prison after refusing to admit wrongdoing and reach financial settlements with the authorities. 

According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, the anti-corruption campaign followed a special request from Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to members of the kingdom's elite for "patriotic contributions to help shore up government finances."

After the pleas were left largely unanswered, the crown prince "lured" the elites to Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton before arresting them and accusing them of bribery.

Last week, the attorney general said that countrywide most detainees had agreed to settlements, 90 had been released after charges were dropped, and 95 remained in custody. Some cases will go to trial. 

Among top businessmen caught up in the purge were Prince Alwaleed, owner of global investor Kingdom Holding, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC. 

MBC said the investigation found Ibrahim completely innocent of wrongdoing and Prince Alwaleed has insisted he is innocent, although Saudi officials said both men agreed to settlements after admitting unspecified "violations." 

In an interview with Reuters at his suite in the Ritz-Carlton hours before he was released on Saturday, Prince Alwaleed said he had been well-treated in custody and described his case as the result of a misunderstanding. 

He showed off the comforts of his suite's gold-accented private office, a dining room and a kitchen which was fully stocked with his preferred vegetarian meals. 

The hotel has 492 guest rooms and suites and 52 acres (21 hectares) of landscaped gardens, according to its website. It has said it will reopen to the public in mid-February, with a nightly rate for its cheapest room of 2,439 riyals ($650).