Saudi Prince released after probe into corruption

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Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been released from detention almost three months after his arrest in an anti-corruption drive that targeted the kingdom’s elite.

Dozens of princes, senior officials, and top businessmen were detained when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his purge in early November.

At the time of his detention, a Saudi official confirmed to Reuters that allegations against Prince Alwaleed included money laundering, bribery and extorting officials.

Authorities said they aimed to reach financial settlements with most suspects and believed they could raise some $100 billion for the government this way – a huge windfall for the state, which has seen its finances squeezed by low oil prices.Prince Alwaleed, 59, has continued to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities.

In an interview with Reuters, he said he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding Co without being required to give up assets to the government.

There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government,” he said in the interview ,conducted shortly after midnight. “I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days.”
Prince Alwaleed appeared greyer and thinner than in his last public appearance, a television interview in late October, and had grown a beard while in detention.

But he said he had been well treated, describing rumours of mistreatment and of being moved from his suite in Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel to a prison as completely false.

He gave the interview largely in order to disprove such rumors, he said, showing off the comforts of the private office, dining room, and kitchen in his gold-accented suite, which was fully stocked with his preferred vegetarian meals.

In the corner of his office sat tennis shoes, which he said he used for exercise. A television played business news programmes and a mug with an image of his own face on it was perched on the desk.

The release of Prince Alwaleed, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion, may reassure investors in his business empire.

Directly or indirectly through Kingdom Holding, he holds stakes in firms such as Twitter Inc and Citigroup Inc, and has invested in top hotels including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York.

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