Is MBS’s supreme anti-corruption committee torturing Ritz detainees?

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Left to right: Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah. Photos: Reuters, AFP

The London Daily Mail’s online edition on Thursday published an exclusive report claiming: “American mercenaries are torturing Saudi elite rounded up by new crown prince – and billionaire Prince Alwaleed was hung upside down ‘just to send a message.’”

“They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,” DailyMail.com quotes its source as saying.

Saudi Ritz Carlton Map

We have no direct-source verification of the specific claims in the Daily Mail piece. However, reports of beatings and torture of Saudi princes, former ministers, and leading businessmen held in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel and the nearby Courtyard Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter on allegations of corruption have been coming to light since at least November 10.

Cross-checking of such reports and independent verification with diplomatic sources by now provides a high degree of confidence that torture has been taking place to extract admissions of guilt and – more important – to extract funds in the billions of dollars. The Financial Times has reported that Supreme Committee investigators and interrogators are seeking up to 70% of detainees’ wealth in return for their release.

Among the individuals beaten and tortured and admitted to a hospital on November 6, according to Asia Times’ sources, was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, son of the late King Abdullah and deposed commander of the SANG (Saudi Arabian National Guard). The New York Times reports that as many as 17 detainees have required medical treatment.

Were “American mercenaries” involved in the “enhanced interrogations”, beatings and torture? The Daily Mail source named “Blackwater” as the private US security firm involved. That’s nonsense. Blackwater no longer exists. The firm’s assets were sold in 2010 to Forte Capital Advisors and Manhattan Strategic Ventures and renamed Academi.

Academi, through its owners Constellis, told the Daily Mail that it had no operations of any kind in Saudi Arabia. That may in fact be true. However, it is a well-documented fact that Blackwater founder Erik Prince, after he sold Blackwater, moved to Abu Dhabi in 2011 and helped develop an 800-man foreign (mainly Colombian and South African) mercenary force for the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ).

Prince has since moved on again and through his firm Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-listed company, provides logistics and security services to, inter alia, Chinese state-owned enterprises. But while Prince has moved on, the mercenary troop he helped build did not, and some of those mercenaries are now deployed by the United Arab Emirates to Yemen, where they fight side-by-side with Saudi troops in so-far-unsuccessful efforts to put down the Houthi rebellion.

One can hardly rule out that MBZ, as he is known, has lent some of his mercenaries trained in the art of interrogation to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is a well-know fact that the 56-year-old Abu Dhabi ruler has for several years been the 32-year old MBS’s principal mentor.

But alas, why really must we assume that enhanced interrogation is the exclusive bailiwick of US military or intelligence organs? MBS and his Supreme Committee may well have perfectly capable home-grown practitioners.

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