23 January 2018

The Saudi prosecutors have released more people from detention in the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Okaz newspaper reported that they had reached deals with the government by agreeing to pay a certain amount of money. Attorney-General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said charges against 90 of those held in the hotel would be dropped. The Attorney-General also confirmed the monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom could boost state coffers by $US100 billion.

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is among those still detained. He is the chairman and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding, which has investments in companies such as Citigroup Inc and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $17bn. It was rumoured that he was negotiating terms for his release.  A source familiar with Prince Alwaleed’s case told Reuters on Saturday that the prince had offered to make a “donation” to the Saudi government, without any admission of wrongdoing, and to do so from assets of his own choosing. The government refused those terms, the source said.

It is also understood that the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh will start receiving guests again next month. This means that those who are in custody now will be moved to another destination.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), contends that those being held under detention now have misappropriated $800 billion abusing various positions they held in the kingdom. Most of those detained were members of the royal family, former ministers, top officials of the government and business magnates.

According to Reuters, one of those released early last week included Ibrahim al-Assaf, state minister. He was formerly finance minister and a board member of national oil company Saudi Aramco. He is expected to lead Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos next week.  He was also seen attending a cabinet meeting earlier this month. Many Saudis think that he had been cleared of wrongdoing and retained his positions as minister of state and adviser to the king.