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Saudi prince suspected of corruption released
February 21 2018, 05:33 | Irvin Gilbert
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
A prominent Saudi billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has been released from a two-month detention after paying a settlement in an anti-corruption bust.
According to Crown Prince Salman in an interview with state news agency SPA, the reform measures are aimed at "improving living standards for Saudi citizens", which was now "a government policy". But the specific terms of his release have yet to be disclosed.
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.
He has said that the crackdown could return $100 billion in ill-gotten gains to the treasury while sending a firm message that the old, corrupt ways of doing business are over. Alwaleed was being detained at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
"The attorney-general has approved this morning the settlement that was reached with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal", the official told Reuters.
The identities of the detainees and some of the allegations against them were leaked to media, but few details have been provided on their cases or on the settlements many have reached since then.
The prolonged detention of Prince Al-Waleed, ranked among the richest men in the world, had sent shock waves across a host of companies that count him as a major investor.
"There's a high possibility that this marks the end of almost the first stage and that more arrests will happen later this year", said CEO and founder of risk consulting firm Gulf State Analytics Giorgio Cafiero.
Just days earlier, the hotel had hosted a conference dubbed "Davos in the Desert" where 3,500 business leaders and government officials met to discuss the kingdom's ambitious Vision 2030 plan to diversify away from oil.
Allegations against Prince Alwaleed, who is in his early 60s, included money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official said in November. The settlements were likely "costly", the BBC report said.
Alwaleed bin Talal and his fellow detainees weren't doing hard time. Soon after, officials confirmed that 90 suspects had already been released from the Ritz Carlton after making financial settlements to avoid criminal charges, while roughly 95 remained in the luxury prison.
Al-Tuwijri said that target was "realistic".
The purge has pleased some Saudis by showing that Prince Mohammed's economic shakeup is affecting the wealthy as well as the poor, said Tom Coghlan, director for the Middle East and North Africa at K2 Intelligence in London. "There is a significant flight-of-capital risk".