By Sana Elouazi
Rabat – Saudi authorities have ordered Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, who is allegedly held in Riyadh’s luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel, to pay at least USD 6 billion in exchange for his freedom, revealed the Wall Street Journal on December 22.
In late November, Saudi Arabia detained about 200 dignitaries and top officials as part of anti-corruption crackdown, claiming that over USD 100 billion had been lost to embezzlement and corruption in the past decades.
The massive and unprecedented purge came hours after a Saudi royal decree announced the formation of an anti-corruption commission headed by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who promptly ordered a high-profile cabinet reshuffle.
To date, the list of detainees is still unknown but is said to comprise at least 11 princes, including 62-year-old Bin Talal, who’s facing accusations of money laundering, corruption and extortion.
Several news outlets reported that 95 percent of those locked up are willing to “make deals” and negotiate their exit for very large sums of money, but Bin Talal’s sum is believed to be one of the largest sought by the Saudi authorities.
With a fortune of USD 18 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index, Bin Talal controls the Kingdom Holding investment firm, and owns major stakes in News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter and many other international corporations. The prince also owns many satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.
The shares in Kingdom Holding, an international investment company of which 95 percent is owned by Bin Talal, fell by 9.9 percent the day after the crackdown.
According to lawyer Salah Al-Hejailan, who used to work with Bin Talal, the Saudi prince is “now struggling to persuade the government to take a stake within his company, Kingdom Holding, which has a market value of nearly USD 9 billion, in exchange for freedom and to remain in control of his firms.”
The news comes days following Saudi prince Miteb bin Abdullah release from detention, after paying more than USD 1 billion in a settlement with Saudi authorities.