This article originally appeared on VICE News.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is in the middle of an unprecedented power grab that has resulted in a massive purge of his country’s ruling elite, throwing princes, government ministers and high-flying businessmen into an ultra-fancy makeshift prison inside Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Now we know the price of getting out: $1 billion USD.
That’s the price one prince reportedly was willing to pay for his freedom.
The jailed royal, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, son of the late King Abdullah, was turned loose after agreeing to fork over the equivalent of the entire budget for all four upcoming Avatar sequels to settle corruption allegations against him, an unnamed Saudi official told news agencies Wednesday.
The former head of the elite National Guard, Prince Miteb had once been seen as a top contender for the throne himself.
One billion dollars might sound like a lot of money. But here’s the crazy thing: Other Saudi royalty may pay even more.
Earlier reports indicate Saudi prosecutors are negotiating with the Ritz lockups for as much as 70 percent of all their wealth.
And these guys have lots and lots and lots of wealth. The total haul for the Saudi state coffers could be as much as $300 billion USD, according to the Financial Times.
Prince Miteb was reportedly accused of hiring nonexistent employees and awarding contracts to his own pet companies, including one deal for walkie-talkies and bulletproof military gear. He reportedly admitted guilt as part of his release.
Of course, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country that’s slapped rich inmates with multi-billion-dollar liabilities. In 2004, a judge in Texas decided to make a point by setting accused murderer and real estate mogul Robert Durst’s bail at $3 billion USD. An appeals court later reduced it to less than half a million.