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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Saudi anti-corruption settlements reach $107 billion

Of 381 people originally detained in a corruption crackdown, 56 remain in custody, authorities say

The Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, seen here on November 5, 2017. Faisal Al Nasser / File Photo / Reuters
The Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, seen here on November 5, 2017. Faisal Al Nasser / File Photo / Reuters

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it had arranged to recover almost $107 billion in settlements from businessmen and officials detained in the country's months-long corruption crackdown.

The sum comprises assets including property, commercial entities, stocks and cash, though the investigation has not concluded.

Announcing the monies recovered, the kingdom's attorney general Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said of 381 people originally detained 56 remain in custody.

He has refused to settle with them "due to other pending criminal cases". He said those inquiries would continue to be probed by the public prosecution office.

Some cases are expected to go to trial, authorities have said previously.

The other 325 detainees had been released — either because there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations against them, or because they had reached financial settlements with the government and admitted to the allegations against them, the attorney general added.

The huge sum — 400bn Saudi riyals ($106.67bn) — will be a financial boost for the government, which has seen its finances strained in recent years by low oil prices. The state budget deficit this year is projected at 195bn riyals.

The announcement also appeared to represent a political victory for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the purge in November and predicted at the time that it would net about $100bn in settlements.

Dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained, many of them confined and interviewed at Riyadh's opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Earlier, a Saudi official said the kingdom had released all remaining detainees being held at Riyadh's opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Some suspects are believed to have been moved from the Ritz to prison.

Among the high-profile businessmen held in the probe were Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of global investor Kingdom Holding. He is ranked among the richest people in the world, with Forbes once estimating his fortune to be worth $18.7bn.

Waleed Al Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC, had also been detained.

Both men were released at the end of last week.

MBC said the investigation found Mr Al Ibrahim completely innocent of wrongdoing, while Prince Alwaleed has insisted he is innocent, although Saudi officials said both men agreed to settlements after admitting unspecified "violations".

In an interview with Reuters at his suite in the Ritz-Carlton, hours before he was released on Saturday, Prince Alwaleed said he had been well-treated in custody and described his case as the result of a misunderstanding.

Part of the suite where billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, seen here on January 27, 2018. Katie Paul / File Photo / Reuters
Part of the suite where billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, seen here on January 27, 2018. Katie Paul / File Photo / Reuters

He showed off the comfort of his suite's gold-accented private office, a dining room and a kitchen which was fully stocked with his preferred vegan meals.

The hotel has 492 guest rooms and suites and 21 hectares of landscaped gardens, according to its website. It has said it will reopen to the public in mid-February, with a nightly rate for its cheapest room of 2,439 rials.

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Read more:

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed's daughter tweets joy after his release

Kingdom Holding shares surge on Prince Alwaleed's release

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Saudi authorities say the anti-corruption drive is aimed at improving the kingdom's business environment and that sums recovered will be used to fund a cash assistance programme for middle and lower-income citizens estimated to cost $8.5bn this year.

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