Seventeen American, British and French businessmen are being held in Saudi Arabia as part of a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown, a source in the secretive kingdom has told DailyMail.com.
The men – eight U.S. citizens, six British and three French – were held in a round-up of billionaires and princes ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the source said.
The prince, known as MBS, has said the arrests were to end corruption but others see them as a consolidation of his power. The targets are known to have included one of the world’s wealthiest men, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose portfolio includes stakes in Uber, Twitter and Citigroup.
The source – who has knowledge of MBS’s thinking – said the men were among those being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, a five-star hotel, which has become the world’s most luxurious prison.
The source also said that some of the 17 businessmen were among the detainees who had been tortured by Saudi authorities. Each of them were in the country on work permits, the source said, suggesting they were long-time expatriate residents rather than visiting businessmen.
‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source, who has knowledge of the top levels of the Saudi government, said. DailyMail.com was unable to verify the source’s claims independently.
A spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the country’s public prosecutor was ‘complying with the relevant laws and regulations’ over the arrests and declined to discuss who had been arrested and whether any non-Saudis were caught in the dragnet.
Under normal circumstances detained foreign nationals have the right to contact their country’s embassy to ask for assistance.The State Department said it could not comment on individual cases due to ‘privacy considerations’ and declined to say if it had been asked for assistance by attorneys or families of U.S. citizens in the wake of the round-up.
‘The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously. ‘When we are notified of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, we immediately seek to visit him or her. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,’ said a spokesperson.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they have not been contacted by any British citizens in Riyadh for assistance, and the French foreign office declined to comment.
If the men had not contacted their embassies through their families or legal representatives, it would be possible for the U.S., UK and France to say they were unaware of the arrested – but the high-profile nature of MBS’s actions makes it unlikely that key allies could be unaware that Saudi Arabia was holding its citizens in open-ended detention.
Arrests of expatriate Americans, British and French citizens in Saudi are highly unusual.
Although the country has an estimated 11 million guest workers, the vast majority are from India, Pakistan, the Philippines and African countries, providing the kingdom with a pool of cheap labor.
Source Credit: Daily Mail