Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 March 2018

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal released

The prince, one of the richest men in the world, was arrested during an anti-corruption purge last year

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been released from detention, a palace source told The National on Saturday, more than two months after he was taken into custody in the kingdom's sweeping crackdown on corruption.

His release came hours after he told Reuters in an exclusive interview at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh that he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing and be released from custody within days.

"He has arrived home," the palace source said.

The prince, one of the nation's most prominent tycoons, continued to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities. Allegations against him included money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official said.

Prince Alwaleed told Reuters he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding without being required to give up assets to the government.


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He described his confinement as a misunderstanding and said he supported reform efforts led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Alwaleed was an early advocate of women's employment in Saudi Arabia and a lifting of the ban on women driving. In September, King Salman ordered that the restriction should be lifted next year.

"There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government," he said. "I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days."

Prince Alwaleed appeared greyer and thinner than in his last public appearance, a television interview in late October, and had grown a beard while in detention.

"I have nothing to hide at all. I'm so comfortable, I'm so relaxed. I shave here, like at home. My barber comes here. I'm like at home, frankly speaking," he said.

"I told the government I'd stay as much as they want, because I want the truth to come out on all my dealings and on all things that are around me."

The flamboyant prince, in his 60s, is the face of Saudi business for many foreigners, often appearing on international television covering his diverse investments and lifestyle.

Directly or indirectly through Kingdom Holding, he holds stakes in firms such as Twitter Inc and Citigroup Inc, and has invested in top hotels including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York. The release of the prince, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at US$17 billion, is likely to reassure investors in his global business empire as well as in the Saudi economy broadly.

A 30-minute interview, including a tour of his suite, was granted largely in order to disprove rumours of mistreatment and of being moved from the hotel to a prison.

The interview came as a number of other senior figures caught up in the corruption probe reached financial settlements with the government for their release. These include Waleed Al Ibrahim, the owner of MBC television network.

More than 200 royals, officials and businessmen were arrested in the probe last November as part of Crown Prince Mohammed's plan to consolidate control and reform oil superpower Saudi Arabia.