Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Saudi elites released after 'settlements of corruption'

Saudi Arabia uses aggression abroad to calm clerics at home UK activists demand cancellation of Mohammed Bin Salman's visit
Andrew Cummings | 29 January, 2018, 05:45

Saudi Arabia on Friday released the owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC almost three months after his arrest in an anti-corruption drive targeting the kingdom's elite, sources told AFP.

Hours earlier in an exclusive interview with Reuters, he said he expected to be cleared of charges and released from custody within days. Even though terms of his agreement weren't released, he said that he expects to maintain full control over his investment firm Kingdom Holding Company. The main part of the corruption probe is now believed to be winding down.

Middle East Eye, quoting undisclosed sources reports that Prince Talal was released from Hotel Ritz-Carlton and arrived home.

Most detainees agreed on financial settlements in "cash, real estate and other assets", Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported last week.

Shortly after the detention of 159 people, the attorney general said in a statement, "Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100 billion United States dollars has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades".

Detained for almost three months, he was released on Saturday after striking an undisclosed financial agreement with the authorities, a government source said.

Despite being accused of money laundering, extorting officials and bribery, he said that there will be no charges against him: "There are just some discussions between me and the government".

The surprise arrests also anxious global investors, particularly as the Saudi government prepares to list oil giant Saudi Aramco on the stock market sometime this year or next. "I have my assets here", he said.

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The prince, sometimes pictured vacationing on his 85m super-yacht in the Mediterranean, is among the most outspoken Saudi royals and a longtime advocate of women's rights.

After freedom, the prince said, he plans to continue living in Saudi Arabia and getting back to run his business.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 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.

The prince, who Forbes estimates is worth $18.7 billion, has also invested in Lyft and Twitter. "I'm like at home, frankly speaking", he said.

His suite at the Ritz-Carlton included a private office, dining room and kitchen.

The Saudi authorities then began securing cash settlement deals with the high-profile detainees, receiving hefty amounts in exchange for their freedom.

His refrigerator was stocked with vegetarian meals as requested, and he had tennis shoes for exercise, Reuters reported.

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