The Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, which was once detained hundreds of rich and once-powerful Saudis in the so-called anti-corruption campaign, has again become a hotel. Nevertheless, the topic of the conclusions are still relevant in the new Saudi Arabia.
Billionaires, Royal family members and officials remain locked up, including Prince Turki bin Abdullah and the former Minister of economy Adel Fakei, the chief architect of the reform plan of the Kingdom. Some of them are now detained in the prison, “al-khaer”, South of the capital, in maximum security, there are contained many Islamic militants.
Released must promise to pay a huge settlement, while some of them forbidden journey, or they have to wear special bracelets on the ankles that will allow you to track their location, reported by their colleagues. The fate of those still held in detention is unknown, including the fate of the former head of the Main investment authority Saudi Arabia al-Dabbagh of Saudi Arabia billionaire Mohammed al Amoudi.
The arrests have created an atmosphere of fear, against which pale daily messages about the changes that crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds, speaking as a young reformer in a new era. Cinemas open to the public, gender-mixed groups, women would be allowed to drive a car this month, however, the authoritarian side of his leadership makes itself felt.
The enthusiasm that was noted when he unveiled his plans for radical changes to Saudi society 2 years ago in the “Vision-2030”, slowly give way to sense of alertness according to interviews with more than a dozen businessmen, government officials, activists and diplomats, who asked not to reveal their names for fear of retribution.
$100 billion required by the authorities of Saudi Arabia in exchange for the freedom of the princes, accused of corruption. Finally everything should be settled before the end of January.
Some Saudis hold the phone in separate rooms or in plastic containers for fear that they will listen through the microphones in these devices. Most of them are reluctant to discuss politics in public places.
Last month authorities detained a number of the most prominent women human rights defenders in the country, accusing them of having ties with “hostile organizations” that provide moral and financial support “elements hostile to the Kingdom”.
32-year-old crown Prince was visiting the United States for three weeks in March, presenting your image and the image of Saudi Arabia to the American businessman. He collaborates with Masashi San of Softbank Corp. on the construction of ultra modern city in the desert worth $500 billion mark for international businessmen and bankers about what is going to happen real change.
At home in the country, Prince Mohammed has replaced the style of authoritarian rule, when the rulers ruled the ministries, the style of rule of a single leader, who controls all the levers of power. And some of it can not disturb.
Officials of foreign embassies noted that more and more citizens of Saudi Arabia are interested in how to extend the validity period of the passport and how to make it for their children.
Last year direct foreign investments in Saudi Arabia amounted to one-fifth of the level for 2016 of $1.42 billion against $USD 7.45 billion after the international companies have sold shares in local enterprises, which brought less money, according to a UN report last week.
Central Bank data shows that money derived abroad. In the fourth quarter, when the arrests began, the transfer of the Saudis jumped by 46% compared to the same period a year earlier. They grew in April – the latest month for which data is available: then they were 27% higher than during the same month last year.
Kingdom for decades remained the place where the tribes were free to spend the money, and the priests convinced everybody that the country should maintain its ultraconservative brand of Islamic state.
The decline in oil prices and the slowdown in growth has led to the urgent need for new policies aimed at moving the economy from petrodollars. Last year GDP fell by 0.7%, although growth is expected this year to 1.5% according to a survey of economists by Bloomberg, after prices of oil will return to around $70 per barrel.
According to diplomats in Riyadh, the crown Prince can use activists as an example for other interest groups that want to exert pressure on the government.
This “warning Saudi citizens, made in no uncertain terms, that the state is the sole arbiter of policy and interlocutor with foreign media, international organizations and diplomats,” said Christine Smith, an employee of the analytical center of the Arab Gulf States Institute.
Partially creating an atmosphere of fear is how the government reacted to the suppression of corruption in November. A total of 381, the suspect and the witness were questioned and detained at a hotel in Riyadh. The government released most of them in exchange for cash, which, according to officials, more than $100 billion, 56 people were detained for “other crimes” or continued an investigation, said the Prosecutor in January.
In January at the world economic forum in Davos, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said that government corruption was convenient for business.
Indeed, we have developed a number of new fields opened by the crown Prince, such as entertainment. Some large Saudi family again carry out the investment.
Several leading businessmen from Saudi Arabia seem more willing to use the cash inside the country and abroad a few months after the situation in the Ritz. They know that the next few years will be tough, but I hope that all of it is justified. Now in the Kingdom are constantly rumors about the detainees, subjected to torture, including beatings and electric shocks.
The government denies allegations of torture. The two released prisoners, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and founder of the Center for middle East broadcasting Walid al-Ibrahim, said in an interview with the media that treated them well.
Those who remains in custody, has spent more than six months without trial. Gregory gauze, Professor Texas A&M University, noted that the government wants to avoid litigation. “Too much dirt can float”, – he said. However, this may be unavoidable, he said.