Ethiopian-born Saudi businessman freed- Bakr bin Laden also out

January 28, 2019 4:00 pm

It looks like Saudi is reaching out of court settlements with a number of high profile detainees arrested as part of a November 2017 crackdown on corruption.

The latest freed is Saudi-Ethiopian businessman Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, 14 months after he was detained, Reuters reports.

Authorities have always asserted that release was contingent on detainees agreeing to settle deals, which the hopes of recouping over $100 billion of what Saudi believes was lost income due to corruption.

It was not clear what al-Amoudi’s settlement amount was.

Photo courtesy of Gulf Business

A person familiar with Amoudi’s situation told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ): “He paid and he paid a lot” for his freedom.

WSJ said Amoudi’s attorneys specified that his non-Saudi businesses remained independently managed but didn’t address his considerable holdings inside the kingdom.

Bloomberg reports a Saudi official saying in December that Al Amoudi was charged with corruption and would face trial.

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Amoudi, now in his 70s, was among a number of recently released Saudi business and political elite.

Forbes once valued his fortune at more than $15bn, according to the WSJ, but later revised that figure to just over $1.2bn when it couldn’t assert the true ownership of some of his businesses following his detention.

Ethiopian state television was the first to report he had been freed.

Amoudi had returned home to the western city of Jeddah.

“Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also confirmed Amoudi’s release on Twitter, saying he had raised the issue with Prince Mohammed during a trip to Riyadh last May,” Reuters reports.

Amoudi is a businessman whose dealings involved investments in construction, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, hotels and mining and at one point purchased oil refineries in Morocco and Sweden as well.

Reuters said that that at least eight other prominent detainees were released last week, quoting sources.

Those released include businessman Amr Dabbagh, former Mecca mayor Osama al-Bar, and Ibrahim al-Muaqel, who headed the Human Resources Development Fund under the then labor minister, Adel Fakieh.

“Fakieh is believed to still be in prison, along with former Riyadh governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah and Saudi-American physician Walid al-Fitaihi,” Reuters reports.

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The special case of Bakr bin Laden

Bakr bin Laden, who was chairman of builder Saudi Binladin Group “before the state seized more than a third of the family-run firm last year,” was released temporarily last week to attend a funeral. It was unclear if he would return to detention, according to Reuters.

Photo courtesy of CW online

Reuters had earlier said at least two other bin Laden brothers, Saleh and Saad, senior executives in the family firm, were also held but released within several weeks.

“All three men transferred their combined 36.2% stake in the company to the state last April,” Reuters claims.

The government then appointed three representatives and two other brothers to oversee the running of the country’s largest builder.

According to Reuters, the Saudi finance minister told it last month that Saudi Binladin Group would soon have a “normal board” with family members and representatives of government ownership, but did not exclude the possibility that it could eventually be listed on the stock market.

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Hadi Khatib
By Hadi Khatib
Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years' experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it.