Saudi Arabia frees all corruption detainees from Ritz 'prison'

Prince Alwaleed 62 was among dozens of other royal family members ministers and top businessmen detained

Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it had arranged to recover nearly $107-billion in settlements from businessmen and officials detained in the country's months-long corruption purge.

Prince Alwaleed, who is in his early 60s, described his confinement as a "misunderstanding" and said he supported reform efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Riyadh's Ritz Carlton Hotel is returning to business as usual, a Saudi official said on Tuesday, with all detainees having been released over an alleged corruption probe, but 56 remain in custody at other locations.

Most detainees have since been released after agreeing to hand over substantial financial assets to the government.

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of global investor Kingdom Holding, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC, were freed last weekend.

Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said the settlements include seizure of real estate assets, commercial entities, securities and cash. The government has been using the reserves, which peaked at $737 billion in August 2014, to cover a big budget deficit caused by low oil export receipts.

The attorney-general said the number of subpoenaed individuals reached 381, adding that 56 remain in custody.

Alwaleed is a nephew of Saudi King Salman, and is worth more than $17 billion.

MBC said the investigation found Ibrahim completely innocent of wrongdoing and Prince Alwaleed has insisted he is innocent, although Saudi officials said both men agreed to settlements after admitting unspecified "violations".

A senior Saudi official said Prince Alwaleed was freed after he reached a financial settlement with the attorney general."The attorney general has approved this morning the settlement that was reached with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the prince returned home at 1100 a.m. (0800 GMT)", the official told Reuters, without giving details of the terms. It has said it will reopen to the public in mid-February, with a nightly rate for its cheapest room of $650.

Bankers in the Gulf said the secrecy of the crackdown had unsettled the business community and could weigh on the willingness of local and foreign businesses to invest.



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