Saudi corruption: Who’s being released and who’s going to court?
A sweeping roundup last month of Saudi princes and businessmen aimed at purging corruption has caused initial concern among potential investors, but many viewed this as a positive development.
Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi informed Reuters that authorities had finished taking large numbers of top officials and businessmen into custody.
What is now known about the fate of the detainees in the Saudi corruption case is that most will be released soon, having settled their corruption cases with authorities, reportedly to the tune of $50-$100 billion.
Some have not and according to Forbes sources, Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal is one of them.
What do we know so far?
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojib recently announced that the majority of detainees have decided to settle and avoid prosecution but a few others will continue to be held until a court date is decided.
“A total of 320 people had been subpoenaed to provide information about alleged graft while 159 remain in detention and “a number” of them have been referred for judicial action,” al-Mojib said in a statement.
The allegations, according to Reuters, include kickbacks, inflating government contracts, extortion and bribery.
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was the first to be released and he was reported to have settled for over $1bn.
Al-Mojib said he expected the settlement phase to conclude within a few weeks.
What to settle means
According to the prosecutor’s statement, detainees can communicate with anyone they choose and have the option of rejecting or accepting settlement offers, where a positive outcome would lead to pardon and an end to legal proceedings.
Refusal to settle could lead to potential prosecution, the statement said, and detainees can be held for up to six months.
Settlement funds could be a boon to Saudi economy suffering from a sizable budget deficit as a result of low oil prices.
According to Qasabi telling businessmen on a US trip, Saudi will be using settlement funds estimated to total between $50bn and $100 bn for housing, general public needs, and development projects.
According to al-Mojib, the bank accounts of 376 people in detention and others related remain frozen, down from over 2,000 a few weeks ago.
Business Insider said that Saudi economic reforms include a privatization program that is set to raise some $300bn, but such deals have been hampered by red tape and legal uncertainties.
According to Reuters instability from the anti-corruption crackdown is viewed by Saudis as a necessary price to pay for convincing investors that Saudi Arabia will be a safe place for them.
Let’s go to court
Forbes reports that four billionaires are among those arrested: investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi-Ethiopian investor Mohammed Al Amoudi, media baron and conglomerate head Saleh Kamel and shopping mall tycoon Fawaz Alhokair.
A source told Forbes that the settlement offered to Alwaleed bin Talal, whose net worth nears $16bn, states that the prince relinquish substantial assets, and agree to a lifetime house arrest.
“Alwaleed has refused the offer,” the source told Forbes, “and wants to go to court.”
Not a power grab
Accordingto BBC, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has rejected as “ludicrous” suggestions the anti-corruption campaign was a power grab.
“Prince Mohammed, who at 32 is heir apparent, heads the anti-corruption committee and is the Saudi defence minister, told the New York Times many of those detained had already pledged allegiance to him,” said BBC in a recent report.