Saudi billionaire Alwaleed released from detention!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Recent actions of Saudi government raise doubts about its real intentions that they refuse to reveal. This brings Saudi government very close to American counterpart where nothing would be leaked to public knowledge until the action is taken.
All of a sudden, Saudi king arrested in November many princes and big businessmen on charges of corruption. After that nothing is known about what action being undertaken by the government. Recently the government released a top insider prince after securing financial agreements with him. All those princes and minsters arrested have been kept in 5 star hotels like Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of the prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers. He controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, owning or having owned major stakes in 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Apple, Twitter and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.
The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated , stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests. Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel was transformed into a luxurious prison to hold tycoons and royals. as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bold plan to consolidate control and reform oil superpower Saudi Arabia.
Prominent Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was arrested among dozens of other royal family members, ministers in November, and top businessmen, has been released after more than two months of detention on allegations of corruption, according to a family source.
The release of Prince Alwaleed, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17bn, may reassure investors in his business empire. Directly or indirectly through his firm, Kingdom Holding, he holds stakes in companies such as Twitter, Inc and Citigroup, Inc. He has also invested in top hotels around the world, including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York City. Saudi authorities said they aimed to reach financial settlements with most suspects and believed they could raise some $100bn for the government this way.
After freedom, the prince said, he plans to continue living in Saudi Arabia and getting back to the high-paced and complex challenge of juggling his global interests.
Prince Alwaleed said he was continuing to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities. He said he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding Co without being required to give up assets to the government.
Dozens of princes, senior officials and top businessmen were detained when Crown Prince Mohammed launched his purge in early November, shocking Saudis who never imagined the business elite or royalty could come under close scrutiny.
Allegations against Prince Alwaleed included money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official told Reuters at the time. He is also known for his outspoken views on politics – making headlines in 2015 when he called Donald Trump a “disgrace” on Twitter during the US election campaign. The prince said he was able to communicate with family members and executives at his business during his time in detention.
Squeezing of finances
In recent days there have been signs the purge is winding down. Several other prominent businessmen, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC, have been released, an official source told Reuters on Friday. Terms of any settlement were not revealed.
Authorities said they aimed to reach financial settlements with most suspects and believed they could raise some $100 billion for the government this way – a huge windfall for the state, which has seen its finances squeezed by low oil prices.
Prince Alwaleed said his own case was taking longer to conclude because he was determined to clear his name completely, but he believed the case was now 95 percent finished. He said he was particularly upset by media reports that he had been sent to prison and tortured.
The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.
Reform minded Prince Muhammad
At 32, the crown prince is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies, stirring murmurs of discontent in the royal family that he has amassed too much personal power, and at a remarkably young age.
The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests. The anti-corruption committee has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.
Prince Alwaleed was giving interviews to the Western news media as recently as late last month about subjects like so-called crypto currencies and Saudi Arabia’s plans for a public offering of shares in its state oil company, Aramco. He has also recently sparred publicly with President Donald J. Trump. The prince was part of a group of investors who bought control of the Plaza Hotel in New York from Mr. Trump, and he also bought an expensive yacht from him as well. But in a twitter message in 2015 the prince called Trump “a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”
In early November, more than 200 people including princes, prominent businessmen, and former government officials were arrested in what officials said was a wide-ranging anti-corruption probe. More than 1,500 bank accounts of suspects were also frozen (paywall) according to the Financial Times, as the government sought to tackle “systematic corruption” and reclaim embezzled funds.
The unprecedented move is also seen as crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to tighten his grip on power, even as he marshals the kingdom to stem its dependence on oil and encourage foreign investment.
At least two billionaire businessmen detained in the corruption investigation have extensive investments across Africa. One of them is prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holdings, which has sizable stakes in Twitter, Citigroup, and ride-sharing firm Lyft. The other is Mohammad al-Amoudi, son of a Saudi father and an Ethiopian mother, and one of the richest black people in the world. Together, Talal and al-Amoudi own investments across Africa in hospitality, agriculture, cement production, gold mining, real estate, and oil production.
The jitters surrounding the Saudi purge continue to reverberate both in Africa and across the world with companies and family holdings wondering how the shakedown would impact their businesses, assets, and long-term investments.
Saudi authorities arrested scores of prominent officials over the weekend, including 10 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers, in a massive shakeup by King Salman aimed at consolidating power for his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the main architect of the kingdom’s war in Yemen. Among those arrested was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of at least $17 billion. Talal has investments in many well-known U.S. companies, like Apple, Twitter, Citigroup—and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corp. The arrests, on unspecified “corruption” charges, came just hours after the crown prince convened a new anti-corruption committee with wide-ranging powers to detain and arrest anyone accused and to search their homes and seize their assets. Meanwhile, the White House said President Trump called King Salman to offer thanks for the kingdom’s purchases of billions of dollars in U.S. weaponry, while praising what it called the kingdom’s “modernization drive.” We speak with Toby Jones, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University, and with Afrah Nasser, Yemeni journalist and founder and editor-in-chief of the Sana’a Review.
A number of prominent Saudi Arabian princes, government ministers, and business people were arrested in Saudi Arabia in November 2017 following the creation of an anti-corruption committee led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. There are three alternate theories regarding the motives behind the purge: a genuine corruption crackdown, a project to gain money, or preparing to take over the crown.
The detainees were confined at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh (which hosted the announcement for the planned city of Neom on 24 October 2017) which subsequently stopped accepting new bookings and told guests to leave. Private jets were also grounded to prevent suspects from fleeing the country.
The arrests resulted in the final sidelining of the faction of the late King Abdullah and MbS’s complete consolidation of control of all three branches of the security forces, making him the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia since his grandfather, the first King, Ibn Saud.
As many as 500 people have been rounded up in the ongoing sweep.Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 2,000 domestic accounts as part of the crackdown. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Saudi government is targeting cash and assets worth up to $800 billion. The Saudi authorities claimed that amount is composed of assets worth around $300 billion to $400 billion that they can prove was linked to corruption.
Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Motjeb said in a statement that the arrests were “merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists.” He added that those detained will have access to legal counsel and pledges to hold trials “in a timely and open manner.” Meanwhile, King Salman appointed 26 new judges.
Prince ted that “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement…About 1 percent are able to prove they are clean and their case is dropped right there. About 4 percent say they are not corrupt and with their lawyers want to go to court.” When asked about reports of cash and assets totaling $800 billion that belong to the people accused of corruption, the official said, “Even if we get 100 billion back, that would be good.”
Saudi Attorney General Shaikh Saud Al Mojeb said on Tuesday the kingdom’s anti-corruption campaign has netted more than $106 billion (Dh389 billion, 400 billion riyal) in financial settlements. According to a statement issued by the government’s information office, Mojeb also said that the settlement represented various types of assets including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets. He said the total number of subpoenaed individuals reached 381, and 65 remained in custody.
Upon release, Prince Alwaleed arrived to his residence in Riyadh on Saturday, the Reuters news agency reported. He and his counterparts were arrested in early November during the kingdom’s “anti-corruption purge”, and were held collectively in the country’s Ritz Carton hotel. Hours earlier in an exclusive interview, he said he expected to be cleared of charges and released from custody within days. “There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government,” the 62-year-old said in a televised interview. “I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days.”
Prince Alwaleed, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh’s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel. Alwaleed said he was continuing to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities. He also said he expected to remain in full control of his global investment firm, without being required to give up assets to the government.
The prince is ranked among the richest people in the world, with Forbes once estimating his fortune to be worth $18.7 billion. Detained for nearly three months, he was released on Saturday after striking an undisclosed financial agreement with the authorities, a government source said. “The attorney general this morning approved the settlement with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal,” paving the way for his release, a government source told AFP on Saturday, without disclosing figures.
During a previous interview, a Saudi official said charges against the billionaire prince included money laundering, bribery and extorting of officials. Also speaking to officials in the kingdom, Saudi authorities were asking detainees to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom. The deals involve separating cash from assets, such as property and shares, and looking at bank accounts to assess cash values, one source told Reuters.
Prince Alwaleed had appeared frail in comparison to his last public appearance in a televised interview last October, but confirmed that he had been treated well, dismissing rumours that said otherwise. Showing off his private office, dining room and kitchen in his hotel suite, Prince Alwaleed said he had agreed to the interview mainly to prove that such rumours were false.
In recent days, there have been signs the purge is winding down; several other prominent businessmen, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC, have reached financial settlements with authorities, an official source told Reuters on Friday, though terms were not revealed.
Prince Alwaleed said his own case was taking longer to conclude because he was determined to clear his name completely, but he believed the case was now 95 percent complete. He has said he plans to live in the kingdom after his release.
Saudi Arabia’s most famous billionaire prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, negotiated a possible settlement with authorities in return for ending his two months detention in an anti-corruption crackdown.
According to a senior Saudi official a sum has not yet been agreed.
“He offered a certain figure but it doesn’t meet the figure required from him, and until today the attorney-general hasn’t approved it,” the official said on condition of anonymity. A second source familiar with Prince Alwaleed’s case told Reuters on Saturday that the price had offered to make a “donation” to the Saudi government, which would avoid any admission of wrongdoing, and to do so from assets of his own choosing. The government refused those terms, the source said.
The prince’s Kingdom Holding Company’s share price jumped as much as 9.8 percent on Sunday in response to news of the negotiations, adding about $860 million to the company’s capitalization. The stock price was still seven percent below its level just before Prince Alwaleed was detained.
Since early November Prince Alwaleed has been held – along with dozens of other members of Saudi Arabia’s political and business elite detained in the crackdown – in Riyadh’s opulent Ritz Carlton hotel as authorities seek to reach settlements with the detainees. Saudi officials say they aim to claw back some $100 billion of funds that “rightfully belong to the state”. Critics say this amounts to a shake down to boost the plans of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The allegations against Prince Alwaleed include money laundering, bribery and extorting officials Neither he nor his company has commented publicly on the charges. Kingdom Holding, which has said it is continuing to operate normally, did not respond to requests for comment when asked about any settlement talks.
Prince AlWaleed formed Kingdom Holding in 1979 and initially poured money into real estate in Riyadh before venturing into Wall Street, investing heavily in Citigroup. Kingdom Holding is one of Saudi Arabia’s most important investors with shares in the Euro Disney theme park, US tech giant Apple and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, among others. It also has key stakes in banks at home and abroad, as well as a number of investment, media and agricultural companies. Aside from a stake in Citigroup, Prince al-Waleed, 62, owns significant stakes in Twitter, ride-hailing firm Lyft and Time Warner.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made headlines in 2015 when he called Donald Trump a “disgrace” on Twitter during the US election campaign. As a close ally of corrupt America, Saudi Arabia cannot work against capitalist and imperialist interests like corruption as it counts to attacking capitalism that USA cannot tolerate.
On the one hand, Riyadh shows it is eager to take independent actions but on the other it cannot come out of capitalist-imperialist US trap. Secret deal over the Sept-11 hoax between USA and Saudi Arabia does not let Saudi pursue a totally independent policy. That is indeed the tragedy of Islamic nations today involved in corruption and other crimes with US Israeli backing. .