Ryan Parry and Josh Hartwell — Daily Mail Nov 23, 2017
Saudi princes and billionaire businessmen arrested in a power grab earlier this month are being strung up by their feet and beaten by American private security contractors, a source in the country tells DailyMail.com.
The group of the country’s most powerful figures were arrested in a crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman three weeks ago as he ordered the detention of at least 11 fellow princes and hundreds of businessmen and government officials over claims of corruption.
Just last month, the Crown Prince vowed to restore ‘moderate, open Islam’ in the kingdom and relaxed a number of its ultra-conservative rules, including lifting a ban on women driving.
DailyMail.com can disclose that the arrests have been followed by ‘interrogations’ which a source said were being carried out by ‘American mercenaries’ brought in to work for the 32-year-old crown prince, who is now the kingdom’s most powerful figure.
‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
‘Blackwater’ has been named by DailyMail.com’s source as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.
The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture, which it is illegal for any U.S. citizen to commit anywhere in the world.
The Saudi crown prince, according to the source, has also confiscated more than $194 billion from the bank accounts and seized assets of those arrested.
The source said that in the febrile atmosphere in the kingdom, Prince Mohammed has bypassed the normal security forces in keeping the princes and other billionaires at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
‘All the guards in charge are private security because MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman) doesn’t want Saudi officers there who have been saluting those detainees all their lives,’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
‘Outside the hotels where they are being detained, you see the armored vehicles of the Saudi special forces. But inside, it’s a private security company.
‘They’ve transferred all the guys from Abu Dhabi. Now they are in charge of everything,’ said the source.
The source said that Salman, often referred to by his initials MBS, is conducting some of the interrogations himself.
‘When it’s something big he asks them questions,’ the source said.
‘He speaks to them very nicely in the interrogation, and then he leaves the room, and the mercenaries go in. The prisoners are slapped, insulted, hung up, tortured.’
The source says the crown prince is desperate to assert his authority through fear and wants to uncover an alleged network of foreign officials who have taken bribes from Saudi princes.
The source said that the name ‘Blackwater’ is being circulated as providing the mercenaries.
The controversial private security company, however, no longer exists under that name and is now Academi.
A spokesperson for Constellis, Academi’s parent company, denied the claims.
The spokesperson told DailyMail.com that it has no presence in Saudi Arabia and does not carry out interrogations.
‘Constellis through Academi does not now or have we ever provided interrogative services,’ they said.
‘We do not provide security services in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), we have no contact or connection with any government official or private party regarding this allegation.’
When asked if Academi workers were involved in any kind of violence during these interrogations, the spokesperson said: ‘No. Academi has no presence in KSA. We do not have interrogators, nor do we provide any interrogators, advisors or other similar services.’
They added: ‘Academi does not participate in interrogative services for any government or private customer. Academi has a zero-tolerance policy for violence. We operate legally, morally, ethically and in compliance with local and US laws.’
The name Blackwater, however, has previously surfaced in the Middle East in the wake of the round-up.
….Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
The Lebanese President tweeted that the country’s former prime minister Saad Hariri was being detained in Riyadh by Blackwater guards, but later deleted the tweet.
‘Lebanese authorities have unconfirmed information that the Blackwater firm is guarding Hariri and his family – not official Saudi security forces,’ Michel Aoun, the President of Lebanon, tweeted last Wednesday.
A high-profile Saudi twitter account, @ Ahdjadid, which posts what is said to be inside information, also claimed Salman has brought in at least 150 ‘Blackwater’ guards.
Saudi whistleblower Ahdjadid tweeted: ‘The first group of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Saudi Arabia a week after the toppling of bin Nayef [Salman’s predecessor as crown prince].
‘They were around 150 fighters. Bin Salman sent some of them to secure bin Nayef’s place of detention and the rest he used for his own protection.’
The abuse claims were also raised recently in an article in the New York Times.
A doctor at a hospital in Riyadh and a US official told the Times that as many as 17 detainees had needed medical treatment.
But Fatimah Baeshen, spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told the newspaper that the arrests were for ‘white collar’ crimes and that the country’s public prosecutor was ensuring that the arrests are ‘complying with the relevant laws and regulations’.
Among those arrested on allegations of corruption is Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the Saudi King’s nephew who is worth more than $17bn according to Forbes, and owns stakes in Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.
DailyMail.com’s source claims the crown prince lulled Alwaleed into a false sense of security, inviting him to a meeting at his Al Yamamah palace, then sent officers to arrest him the night before the meeting.
‘Suddenly at 2.45am all his guards were disarmed, the royal guards of MBS storm in,’ said the source.
‘He’s dragged from his own bedroom in his pajamas, handcuffed, put in the back of an SUV, and interrogated like a criminal.
‘They hung them upside down, just to send a message.
‘They told them that “we’ve made your charges public, the world knows that you’ve been arrested on these charges.”‘
After the arrests, a picture was given to DailyMail.com of the Saudi royals sleeping on thin mattresses in the ballroom of the five star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
A US State Department source told the New York Times Salman was ‘behaving recklessly without sufficient consideration to the likely consequences of his behavior, and that has the potential to damage US interests.’
However, the arrests drew praise from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that he had ‘great confidence in King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia’ after the corruption crackdown earlier this month.
Torture by a US citizen abroad has only been prosecuted in America once.
In 2008 the Boston-born son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor was found guilty by a US court of horrific torture.
The jury in Miami found Charles ‘Chuckie’ Taylor Jr. guilty on all eight counts brought against him, including allegations he and his cohorts tortured victims in Liberia by applying electric shocks to their genitals, burning them with hot irons and melting plastic and rubbing salt in their open wounds.
At the time Sigal Mandelker, the then deputy assistant attorney general with the crime division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said: ‘It sends a very powerful message to human rights violators worldwide that they are not welcome here.’
Taylor was arrested at Miami International Airport in 2006 and pleaded guilty to a charge of lying about his father’s identity on a passport application.
He was later indicted for torturing victims when he was the commander of a paramilitary security force called the Antiterrorist Unit – known as the ‘Demon Forces’ – that protected the elder Taylor while he was president of Liberia.