- Source in Saudi Arabia says American private security contractors are carrying out'interrogations' on princes and billionaires arrested in crackdown
- Detained members of Saudi elite have been hung by their feet and beaten by interrogates, source says
- Among those hung upside down are Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor worth at least $7 billion who is being held at Riyadh's Ritz Carlton
- Arrests were ordered three weeks ago by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
- Source claims mercenaries are from 'Blackwater', a claim also made by Lebanese president
- But its successor firm denies it has any operations in Saudi Arabia whatsoever and says its staff abide by U.S. law
- Americans who commit torture abroad can be jailed for up to 20 years
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.