It may seem odd that dozens of wealthy guests are paying reportedly enormous sums of money to be allowed to leave a lavish hotel, rather than check into it, but that is exactly what has been happening for the last couple of months. Since November 4, 2017, more than 200 Saudi Arabian businessmen, politicians, and princes have been detained in the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh. The men were being held as part of a corruption investigation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After serving as the most luxurious prison in the world, the Ritz-Carlton is set to reopen for “voluntary” guests and is reportedly taking reservations beginning February 14.
It is thought that most of the detainees have negotiated their freedom with the Saudi government, and those who have not will be moved into an actual prison until they go to trial.
The most high-profile detainee, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the founder and CEO of Kingdom Holding Company, was released January 27 after making a financial settlement. Before his release, he gave a reporter from the BBC a video tour of his luxurious accommodations.
The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, is set in 52 landscaped acres located close to the King Abdul Aziz Conference Center. It has 62,000 square feet of event space, including two 19,900-square-foot ballrooms in a separate wing from the 492 guest rooms. There are 13 meeting rooms including a 474-seat auditorium and a 8,600-square-foot meeting room. The amenities include fitness centers for both males and females, a male-only spa, and seven onsite restaurants.
According to the hotel’s website, phone service has been suspended until further notice and an official statement says, “The hotel is operating under the directive of local authorities and not as a traditional hotel for the time being,” but Reuters is reporting that an employee confirmed the hotel will reopen next month.