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Detained Saudi Prince Alwaleed says he expects to be released in days

Several prominent businessmen detained in Saudi 'corruption' crackdown agree to settlements
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (Reuters/file photo)

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said on Saturday that he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing and to be released from custody within days.

Alwaleed was speaking in an exclusive interview with Reuters at his suite in Riyadh's opulent Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he has been held for more than two months, along with dozens of others.

The prince, one of the nation's most prominent tycoons, said he was continuing to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities. He said he expects to keep full control of his global investment firm, Kingdom Holding, without being required to give up assets to the government.

He also said he had been well treated in detention, describing rumours of mistreatment as false. He gave the interview partly in order to disprove such rumours, Alwaleed said.

Meanwhile, several prominent businessmen have reached financial settlements with Saudi authorities after being charged with corruption, an official source told Reuters on Friday.

They include Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC; Fawaz Alhokair, a major shareholder in fashion retailer Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair; Khalid al-Tuwaijri, a former chief of the Royal Court; and Turki bin Nasser, a former head of the country's meteorology and environmental protection agency, the source said.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing rules, did not reveal the terms of the settlements. The men could not immediately be reached for comment.

An email sent to MBC employees by the network's chief executive, Sam Barnett, and seen by Reuters said Ibrahim had been released from detention and was with members of his family in Riyadh.

Under the instructions of powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, dozens of businessmen, officials and members of the royal family were arrested in November.

While authorities have presented the crackdown as an anti-corruption drive, critics accuse bin Salman of orchestrating the campaign to subdue potential rivals within the royal family and the kingdom's economic establishment.

The detainees were tortured at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, sources told Middle East Eye in November. The authorities also set up medical units at the hotel to treat those who needed care after beatings.

In late November, Miteb bin Abdullah, a senior Saudi prince once seen as a leading contender for the throne, was freed after reaching a settlement with authorities that involved paying more than $1bn, according to a Saudi official.

Earlier this week, the attorney general said authorities were still holding 95 people, while 90 detainees had been released after having charges dropped and as others had traded cash, real estate and other assets for their freedom. Some suspects will face trial if they do not settle.

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Bin Salman has said that the majority of “corruption” suspects agreed to pay restitution to the state.

“We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement,” he told the New York Times last year.

The crown prince himself has been accused of corruption and maintaining a lavish lifestyle. In 2015, he reportedly bought a $300m yacht, and last year he paid more than $400m for a Leonardo da Vinci painting.

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