U.S. officials say Saudi crown prince tortured & blackmailed rivals into submission at 2017 meeting
Following a November 4th, 2017 meeting at a swanky Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi Arabian capital of Ridayh, allegations of coercion, torture and blackmail at the meeting have followed the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. U.S. officials say that Salman turned the high-class hotel into a prison for rival royals, government officials, and some of the country’s billionaires by locking them in the hotel unless they agreed to sign over “large chunks of assets,” according to NBC News.
Both ex and current U.S. intelligence officials say that this detention involved psychological abuse and torture, while Saudi officials describe the event as a “crackdown on corruption.” In any case, Salman’s actions sent shockwaves across the elite society of Saudi Arabia. An anonymous U.S. official who was in office at the time told NBC News that “this was a shakedown operation… designed to remind people going forward that their wealth and well-being would depend on the crown prince and not anything else, which is why it was so upsetting for members of the royal family.”
These allegations have heightened significance in the wake of the cover-up of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American based Saudi Arabian journalist who was critical of the royal family and Salman and who disappeared after visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Rumors of the crown prince’s involvement in the murder of Khashoggi have only grown louder, and these allegations only serve to showcase the kind of cruelty Salman is capable of.
At the time of the detaining, American president Donald Trump tweeted out his approval of the actions taken by Salman, saying, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
Trump, who has been inching closer to authoritarianism every chance he gets, has not signaled that he is going to take these new allegations seriously, as his “condemnation” of the Saudi government for the murder of Khashoggi only came after much of the international community made it clear that the government’s involvement could not be denied. After it was revealed by Turkish intelligence that several of the men who were suspected of killing the journalist were connected to the crown prince, Trump declared it “the worst cover-up in the history of cover-ups.”
The Saudi Attorney General’s office claimed in a statement in January about the Ritz hotel incident that 381 individuals had been subpoenaed in corruption cases, and 56 would remain in custody because they either refused to settle or had other pending cases. The Saudi government has consistently portrayed the incident as an effort to clean up corruption in the country, claiming that they had reached settlements worth $106 billion. It is still not yet clear whether these settlements are in the form of cash, real estate, or other holdings.