Saudi Arabia frees wealthy prince held in anti-graft drive
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia released billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal on Saturday nearly three months after his arrest in an anti-corruption drive targeting the kingdom's elite, a business associate said.
"He (Prince Al-Waleed) is out," the associate said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Prince Al-Waleed, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was among some 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including billionaire tycoons and ministers who were detained in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Prince Al-Waleed is the latest in a series of high-profile detainees to be freed from the hotel. The terms of his release were not immediately clear.
Authorities have previously said most of those detained struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, which could earn state coffers about $100 billion.
Another high-profile detainee, former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was released recently following his "settlement" with authorities which reportedly exceeded $1 billion.
Saudi Arabia also on Friday released the owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC nearly three months after his arrest, sources said.
Waleed al-Ibrahim was among the suspects rounded up since November 4.
Ibrahim held a family gathering at his residence after his release, three MBC employees said on condition of anonymity. The staff also received an official e-mail congratulating them on his freedom.
The Financial Times reported earlier Friday that authorities had ordered Ibrahim to hand over his controlling stake in MBC to secure his release.
Authorities have so far not commented on his case.
The government on Friday also released a number of other detainees including Khaled Tuwaijri, former chief of the Saudi royal court, and Turki bin Nasser, former head of the country's meteorology agency, a source close to the government said.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of the king, has spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family, as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom.
The windfall settlements agreed with those detained will help the government finance a multi-million dollar package announced by King Salman this month to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Al Arabiya television in Davos on Wednesday.
Some critics have labelled the campaign a shakedown, but authorities insist the purge was aimed to target endemic corruption as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
The Ritz-Carlton is set to re-open for business next month as the campaign draws to an end, sources at the hotel have said. Its website lists rooms as available from February 14.