Prince Alwaleed freed: The end of Saudi's corruption crackdown?

Posted January 29, 2018

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdom's top global businessmen, was released from detention on Saturday, more than two months after he was taken into custody in a sweeping crackdown on corruption.

Prince Alwaleed, who holds stakes in Twitter Inc and Citigroup Inc through Kingdom Holding, was one of the most significant detainees. He is chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, which closed 9.97 percent higher on the opening day of this week's trading on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange.

Prince Alwaleed is the latest in a batch of high-profile detainees to be freed from the hotel as the anti-corruption campaign begins to wind down.

Major Hollywood and technology investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been freed from detention by the Saudi government. "There are just some discussions between me and the government", the 62-year-old said in a televised interview.

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A senior Saudi official said Prince Alwaleed's release had come about after a financial settlement was reached with the attorney general.

According to the billionaire prince, the interview was granted in order to dispel rumours of mistreatment by Saudi authorities.

But details of the arrests, and the precise nature of the charges against Saudi Arabia's most prominent figures, have been shrouded in mystery and led to allegations that the purge amounted to a shakedown that has so far netted the government tens of billions of dollars in financial settlements.

When asked whether the prince was still the head of his publicly listed Kingdom Holding Company, the source who asserted he was guilty of corruption replied: "For sure".

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The Saudi information ministry has not responded to requests for comment.

He is among scores of Saudi royals and prominent businessmen who were detained in the government-led anti-graft campaign, which started in November past year. Some are expected to be out on trial.

His web of hospitality and real estate investments includes the George V hotel in Paris, New York's Plaza hotel and the Savoy hotel in London.

He described his confinement as a misunderstanding and said he supports reform efforts by the crown prince.

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"Should the released detainees cross the crown prince again - perhaps by showing disloyalty to his vision through their business decisions - they could well find themselves back in fetters", a Stratfor brief said, adding that there may be a strain on the relationship between the released detainees and the government. A television played business news programmes, and a mug with an image of his own face on it was perched on the desk. Although few people doubt Saudi Arabia would benefit from less corruption, the scale and ferocity of the crackdown alarmed businessmen inside and outside the kingdom.