ritz carlton riyadh
Source: hotels

Just days after Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was released from detention at Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel - after three months of imprisonment - a Saudi official has announced that all detainees at the hotel have been freed.

The Saudi official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on Tuesday that "there are no longer any detainees left at the Ritz-Carlton." 

Some of those initially arrested were moved from Ritz to other locations after refusing to reach financial settlements with authorities. 

"The total number of subpoenaed individuals reached 381, a significant number of whom were called to testify or provide evidence," Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's attorney general, said in a statement.

Al-Mojeb revealed that 56 individuals remain in custody due to "other pending criminal cases, in order to continue the investigations process, and in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations," the statement added.

Furthermore, the attorney general has indicated that the estimated value of settlements currently stands at more than SAR 400 billion ($106 billion), represented in various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets.

In November, a nationwide anti-corruption probe led to the arrest of hundreds of Saudis including members of the royal family, former and current government leaders, and prominent businessmen. 

In December, al-Mojeb said that most detainees agreed to financial deals to settle the charges against them.

"Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements," al-Mojeb said at the time.

The kingdom's crackdown on corruption came less than a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) launched a new anti-corruption committee, vowing that nobody involved with corruption would be spared as investigations move forward.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mohammad bin Salman labeled claims that the crackdown was a power grab "ludicrous," explaining that "many prominent members of the Ritz crowd had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms." 

He also revealed that the decision to prosecute anyone who had misused their power over the years has been long in the making.

"Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one 'war on corruption' and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up," he said. 

Under Prince Mohammed's leadership, it's not just the crackdown on corruption at the forefront. The kingdom put forward an ambitious national transformation plan titled "Vision 2030," which was first introduced in April 2016. The plan instigates sweeping changes to economic governance. 

Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved Vision 2030 several months later, aiming to triple non-oil revenues by 2020, diversify the economy, and cut state subsidies. In addition to economic reforms, the plan aims to address social issues as well as provide more cultural and entertainment opportunities. 

These changes have already manifested themselves with the first public concerts to be held in the kingdom in many years and the lifting of both the ban on women driving and the long-standing cinema ban.