MEM – Saudi Arabia’s authorities have released a number of detained royals allegedly involved in corruption in public office. The move came after a settlement was agreed with the suspects, the daily Okaz reported yesterday.
The pro-government newspaper added that the detainees, who had been held in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, included a serving minister and a former head of a major company. It did not disclose any names.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Riyadh has demanded at least $6 billion from Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal as a condition for his release. The amount being demanded is among the highest sought for those who have been detained, the newspaper noted, citing sources close to the case.
Bin Talal, 62, is the 57th richest person in the world with an $18 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Saudi businessman and royals being held by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman as part of the Kingdom’s crackdown on alleged corruption have started to make payments in exchange for their release, according Bloomberg.
The finance news agency reporting individuals with knowledge of the matter saying that some of the high profile figures being detained at the Ritz-Carlton, including Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, are signing agreements with authorities to transfer a portion of their assets to avoid trial. The individuals, who asked not to be identified, revealed that some of the detainees have started to transfer funds from personal accounts to government-controlled accounts.
Last week the Financial Times (FT) reported that Bin Salman was negotiating a settlement deal in which prisoners were asked to hand over 70 per cent of their wealth in exchange for their release.
According to estimates by the Wall Street Journal, the purge, which saw more than 2,000 bank accounts frozen, could raise $800 billion but other estimates that appear to be based on the most high profile businessman in the country, set the figure at $100 billion.
Saudi authorities extended their crackdown by arresting the country’s second wealthiest businessman, Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi who has a duel Saudi and Ethiopian nationality.
Al-Amoudi has a very large business portfolio in Ethiopia, his detention, according to analysts could potentially destabilise the economy of an entire country.
Meanwhile, another senior royal, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, has been released from detention after paying more than $1bn in a settlement with the authorities, the New-York based newspaper pointed out.
The Saudi authorities had been working on striking agreements with some of those in detention, asking them to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom.
Last month, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launched a wide-ranging anti-corruption crackdown against dozens of the Kingdom’s elite, a move that has seen by experts as a means used by the prince to consolidate his grip on power.
The authorities are yet to reveal detailed charges against any of the detainees