Human rights organizations are raising serious concerns about the treatment of Saudi Arabia’s most famous billionaire, Alwaleed bin Talal, who was whisked recently to a high-security prison.
Alwaleed has refused to cough up $6 billion of his $17 billion fortune and won’t admit guilt to corruption charges.
A U.S. source with close ties to the Saudi kingdom tells Newsmax that the 62-year-old businessman, known as the “Saudi Warren Buffett,” has been tortured at the imposing Al-Ha’ir Prison, which is said to house numerous al-Qaeda terror suspects.
It’s a harrowing turn of events for Alwaleed, who along with 150 other wealthy Saudi businessmen, had been detained at the five-star Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh since November 4, after being caught in a dragnet orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who at 33 years of age is the effective ruler of the oil-rich nation.
Alwaleed, long the kingdom’s most respected businessman, owns stakes in Twitter, the ride-hailing firm Lyft, Time Warner and Citigroup. He is also known for his global philanthropy, ranked as the eighth-highest giver to charities with $3.5 billion donated.
Alwaleed has been the biggest fish in what officials call a national “anti-corruption” sweep, but the move has shocked global investors who had been wooed by the new Crown Prince with promises he was Westernizing his nation.
The allegations against Alwaleed include money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official told Reuters soon after his detention.
The government has offered no evidence Alwaleed engaged in such crimes. The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington did not return calls from Newsmax for comment.
The incarceration of Alwaleed – known to American television viewers for his intelligent financial commentary on CNBC – has been called into question by leading human rights agencies.
The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (CDHR) says bin Salman’s “bold decision to arrest a fraction of corrupt princes, ministers, military personnel and businessmen for pillaging public revenues” is tainted because there is no mention that he is not applying the same rule to himself.
Ali H. Alyami, director of the Washington, D.C.-based group, told Newsmax on Wednesday that Alwaleed is supposed to appear in court to face formal charges, but when and if that will happen is up in the air.
“It’s a very secretive system,” Ali said. “He’s in trouble, and I don’t think he’s going to get out of this at all knowing the mindset of this royal family. This prison is for long-term imprisonment.”
Some of the detainees reportedly have been tortured to force them into making massive financial settlements with the government – but Alwaleed is said to have held out.
The torture sessions are being conducted by American mercenaries hired by the Saudi government who stage “interrogations” by stringing the wealthy detainees up by their feet and beating them, The Daily Mail reports.
Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch in New York, told Newsmax, “Our major concern is that this process appears to have taken place outside the any established criminal or judicial procedures.”
A source told Reuters that Alwaleed has offered to make a “donation” to the Saudi government, provided he would not have to admit to any wrongdoing and could choose which assets to cash in.
But so far, the Saudi government has refused his terms, then news agency reports.
More than $194 billion has reportedly been seized from the bank accounts and seized assets of the detainees, even though no evidence of wrongdoing has been offered.
The Siasat Daily, a Saudi newspaper, reported late Tuesday that Saudi authorities have allowed “some of the detainees to cough up 70 percent of their assets in exchange for freedom.”
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