Could Saudi Bakr bin Laden be released after an SBG deal with government?
In a statement received by Arab News, Saudi Bin Laden Group (SBG) asserted it remains a private sector company owned by its shareholders.
This comes contrary to a Reuters exclusive last Thursday which claimed that SBG’s ownership was transferred to the Saudi government in order to restructure outstanding debts.
“Some shareholders in construction giant Saudi Bin Ladin Group (SBG) may transfer part of their shareholdings to the government as part of a financial settlement with authorities,” Reuters also acknowledged, quoting an SBG statement today.
A 5-man committee to restructure SBG has been formed with a government majority of 3 independent members against SBG’s 2 members ( Yahia and Abdallah bin Laden), but does this mean that Bakr will be out soon?
Bakr release imminent?
The deal undoubtedly was done with Bakr bin Laden, SGB Chairman, and detained along with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal since November 2017.
Saudi Public Prosecutor Saud Al-Mojib had on many occasions indicated that negotiations with November 2017 detainees are based on offering them a settlement that will facilitate recouping some $100bn in state funds and assets, in return for ending detention and eliminating any future litigation.
“Those who sign deals are recommended for pardon and an end to criminal litigation,” he said.
That’s what Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah did, paying around $1bn, and earning him a release late November, 2017.
And apparently that’s what Bakr did, having reached a deal that renegotiated a Reuters estimated $30bn in debts incurred over tumultuous years following a 2015 crane crash at the Grand Mosque in Holy Mecca that killed dozens.
“SBG can also confirm that contracted work with the government, which remains a large part of its activities, are ongoing. This includes the projects currently operating in the two holy mosques and the Zamzam rehabilitation project, which began months ago and is expected to end before Ramadan 2018,” said Arab News.
For Prince Alwaleed, the plot thickens
Alternatively, corruption crackdown detainees who refuse to settle are referred to the public prosecutor for additional investigation and potential prosecution, statements from the public prosecutor office repeatedly said.
“They can be held for up to six months with the possibility of court-ordered extension.”
CNBC reported today that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is running out of time to make a deal, more than 2 months after an anti-corruption sweep that led to his detention.
It said “Alwaleed was moved out of his restricted quarters at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton Hotel and into Al Ha’ir prison, according to the London-based Arabic news site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.”
This could not be confirmed by AMEinfo at the time when news was published Jan 9 by another news outlet, and this portal still can’t find a reference to that claim in Al-Araby AL Jadeed news.
Regardless, CNBC said that what had originally been 200 of his fellow princes and top officials, that number has dwindled to just a few prisoners, after most detainees “have bought their freedom with payments and other forms of capitulation to the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
“But bin Talal is holding out, reportedly balking at the $6 billion bin Salman is demanding from him and/or control of some of his investment companies,” added CNBC.
“Another example of that happened this week with the Saudi government’s outright seizure of the Bin Laden Group construction giant.”
What surprises CNBC about bin Talal’s situation is lack of “significant outcry from his foreign friends.”
“The fact that the lucrative Saudi Aramco IPO is coming soon could be another reason that Alwaleed’s supposed friends in the world of finance aren’t making a public stink. They want to curry favor with the Saudis,” CNBC said.
“Prince Alwaleed’s leverage to demand an actual trial or negotiate a better deal is dwindling by the day. The cavalry is not coming.”
One Detainee linked to delayed Saudi bank merger
Reuters reported that a bank merger of Saudi Alawwal and Saudi British Bank SABB was not derailed despite delays, quoting financial sector sources.
“SABB, 40 percent owned by HSBC Holdings, and Alawwal, 40 percent owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, announced in April that they had agreed to start talks. But progress has since faltered because of the complexity of the deal and for shareholder assessment of any potential impact from the kingdom’s anti-corruption drive,” sources told Reuters.
Among those detained in the November 2017 corruption crackdown was SABB vice chairman Khalid Bin Abdullah al-Mulhem, one of the executives on the bank’s merger committee, according to Reuters.
“Almost all banks in Saudi Arabia were affected by the crackdown when authorities ordered the freezing of more than 2,000 accounts across the sector,” reported Reuters.
A merged Alawwal and SABB would rank as the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia with assets of $77.6bn, Thomson Reuters data shows.