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Saudi Ritz Carlton to reopen after being used as luxury prison in corruption purge
The luxury Riyadh hotel used as a prison during Saudi Arabia's crackdown on corruption will reopen for business next month, suggesting authorities are close to settling the cases of many suspects. Dozens of princes, senior officials and top businessmen were detained and confined in the five-star Ritz-Carlton Riyadh as the government launched the purge in early November. The some 200 detainees occupied half the hotel's 492 rooms. The rest was closed to business. The hotel's website now accepts bookings from Feb. 14, quoting a nightly rate for its cheapest room of 2,439 riyals (£480). Saudi authorities have said they expect the vast majority of suspects to agree to financial settlements of charges against them, and that Riyadh hopes to recover about $100 billion of illicit funds. A small number are expected to be prosecuted. Construction giant Saudi Binladin Group said on Saturday that some of its shareholders might transfer part of their holdings to the state in a settlement with authorities. Chairman Bakr Bin Laden and several family members were detained in the crackdown. In late November, senior Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender to the throne, was freed after reaching a settlement with authorities that involved paying more than $1 billion, according to a Saudi official. Another top businessman who has been held at the Ritz-Carlton is billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman and owner of global investment firm Kingdom Holding. A Saudi official said this week that he was negotiating a possible settlement but so far had not agreed on terms. It has been rumoured, Mr Talal, one of the world?s richest men, could be forced to pay as much as $7bn. Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a massive political and economic shake-up, marked by the sudden appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in June. The 32-year-old son of the king has spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family, as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom.
US withholds $65 million from Palestinian aid programs
WASHINGTON (AP) ? The Trump administration on Tuesday cut tens of millions of dollars in money for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the U.N. agency responsible for the programs undertake a "fundamental re-examination," the State Department said.
Philippine volcano 'fireworks' draw tourists as residents flee
Spectacular lava "fireworks" shooting from its crater are drawing tourists to the Philippines' most active volcano, authorities said Tuesday as scientists warned of a potential dangerous eruption within days. Lava spurting from Mayon volcano lit up the sky overnight Monday in what scientists said was a sign of increasing activity that prompted official calls for evacuation of areas under threat from a major eruption.
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