A second wave of Saudi graft probe coming: $100bn netted is just a start!
FIM Partners CEO and CIO Hedi Ben Mlouka said it best to Bloomberg: “The Saudi probe has a short-term negative effect, and ending it will have a long-term positive outcome but people outside of the Ritz (hotel) are still wondering if there will be a wave 2 or wave 3 of corruption roundup.”
His words may have proven to be prophetic.
“The royal order was clear,” Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said Sunday, according to Bloomberg News. “Those who express remorse and agree to settle will have any criminal proceedings against them dropped.”
“We are in a new era,” Al Mojeb added. “The campaign against corruption won’t stop.”
Won’t stop? Not good news for ‘would be’ wave 2 and wave 3 detainees but something else is just beginning.
According to ABC news, the Saudi corruption sweep is to move to trial with 95 detained.
“Saudi authorities are still holding 95 people in a purported anti-corruption campaign that was launched nearly three months ago on November 4,” ABC republishing content from State-linked Sabq news website which quoted the attorney general on Wednesday.
Still prominent among the detained are Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Bakr bin Laden, CEO of Saudi Bin Laden Group.
“If a financial agreement cannot be reached, the attorney general has previously said that detainees will be prosecuted, investigated further and could face six months or more imprisonment,” said ABC.
Sabq said al-Mojeb told reporters a total of 350 people were questioned in the sweep, and that an anti-corruption committee netted at least $100 billion in corruption.
Bloomberg News reported Monday that talks between authorities and suspects were expected to end this month and sources telling it that the massive sum was correct.
The Financial Times cited sources as saying the Saudi government could aim to seize as much as $300 billion from more than 200 princes.
Where is Pricne Alwaleed?
Bloomberg said that one of the biggest mysteries is the fate of Alwaleed.
“Three people following his case say he’s left the Ritz and wasn’t in prison, rather, he was held at another location as he negotiates an agreement. Three others, however, say he’s still at the hotel,” Bloomberg said.
“In December two people with knowledge of the matter said Alwaleed was balking at steep financial demands that would force him to give up control of his $9 billion holding company.”
Bloomberg reported sources as telling it detainee access to legal counsel was allowed but “not to everyone”, though Al Mojeb denies the suspects’ rights were violated.
Saudi not scary!
According to CNBC, Saudi finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan sought at the World Economic Forum in Davos to reassure investors that the kingdom is a secure place to invest.
“We are creating a reform at all levels including the fact that we really need to make sure that investors feel it is a level playing field, that it is a level playing field that it is fair and very transparent,” Al-Jadaan told CNBC Wednesday.
“What is happening with the anti-corruption (drive) is just one part of that,” he said.
He added: “Saudi Arabia today is different, it’s not Saudi Arabia five years ago. We are making sure that government processes and (the) licensing regime is being reformed to make investors feel more welcome and at home. We are also making sure investors are clear that the law is above everybody and we’re going to apply the law in a clear and transparent way,” he said.
Saudi Vision 2030, the driver of change in the kingdom focuses on three main themes: to build a “a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”
“A key part of the vision is to increase private investment and the growth of the private sector, which Saudi Arabia hopes will contribute 65% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030,” reported CNBC.
On Wednesday, Energy Minister Khalid al Falih told CNBC that the kingdom had been “transformed” on an economic level.
“Our message to investors is that the kingdom is transformed, we’re serious about change, it’s comprehensive change,” he said.