• Saudi corruption sweep to move to trial with 95 detained

    By: AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press

    Updated:
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Saudi authorities are still holding 95 people in a purported anti-corruption campaign that was launched nearly three months ago by the kingdom's influential crown prince, Saudi press quoting the attorney general reported on Wednesday.

    A Saudi infographic shared on social media said that detainees who have not agreed on financial settlements to close their case will soon be referred to the Public Prosecution for trial.

    Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is reportedly among those still being held since early November when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the stunning arrests of top princes, businessmen and officials. The prince is chairman of the publicly traded Kingdom Holding, which has investments in twitter, Apple, Citigroup, and the Four Seasons hotel chain. He is also an investor in ride-sharing services Lyft and Careem.

    If a financial agreement cannot be reached, the attorney general has previously said that detainees will be prosecuted, investigated further and could face six months or more imprisonment.

    At least 11 princes were among those detained in the surprise sweep that began Nov. 4. Many of the detainees have been held at the luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, which has been closed to the public since. The hotel's website is taking reservations again starting Feb. 14.

    While the Saudi public has for decades complained of rampant government corruption and misuse of public funds by top officials, the arrests of top business figures and princes, and the secrecy shrouding who was detained and what their alleged crimes were, have foreign investors worried.

    State-linked Sabq news website quoted Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb on Wednesday as saying 90 detainees in total have been released after agreeing to settlements involving cash, real estate and other assets. He says a total of 350 people were questioned in the sweep.

    Among those detained were two of the late King Abdullah's sons, including Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who was fired from his post as head of the National Guard the night of his arrest. After paying an undisclosed sum, the prince was released and later photographed smiling with his younger cousin, the 32-year-old crown prince, at a horse race in late December. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was even filmed kissing Prince Miteb's shoulder in a sign of respect.

    The crown prince heads the anti-corruption committee that was formed by his father, King Salman. The committee has carried out the orders of arrest, investigations and negotiations. The committee has previously said that investigators uncovered at least $100 billion in corruption.

    Also purportedly detained and released is Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former finance minister under King Salman. He is now leading Saudi Arabia's delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week as a minister of state and member of cabinet.

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