Money Matters

A Month After Arrests In Corruption Probe, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Issues New Statement

(Source: www.forbes.com)

FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The headline and article previously said incorrectly that this was the Attorney General’s first statement since the arrests. It was the second statement issued by the Attorney General of Saudi Arabia. The first statement is here

One month and one day after the first reports of sweeping arrests of royal family members and businessmen in Saudi Arabia in a corruption probe spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the office of the country’s Attorney General issued a statement about what it calls the “Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee.”

According to the statement, 320 people were subpoenaed. “Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the Committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements,” the statement said. It notes that 376 bank accounts have been frozen and that currently 159 people are still detained. The names of those detained have not been made public.

It has been reported that four billionaires are among those arrested: investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi-Ethiopian investor Mohammed Al Amoudi, media baron and conglomerate head Saleh Kamel and shopping mall tycoon Fawaz Alhokair.

Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi King, owns 95% of publicly-traded Kingdom Holding, which in turn owns stakes in Citigroup, Twitter and ride-sharing firm Lyft, among other companies. He also owns assets outside of Kingdom Holding, including valuable Saudi real estate. Forbes pegs his net worth at $16.2 billion.

A source told Forbes that the settlement offered to Alwaleed bin Talal requested that he hand over a large portion of his assets and agree to lifetime house arrest with no phone and no media interviews. Alwaleed has refused the offer, according to the source, and wants to go to court. The specific allegations against Prince Alwaleed have not been made public.

A spokesperson for Prince Alwaleed did not respond to a request for comment.  A spokesperson at the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C. replied: “The Embassy does not have information on specific individuals due to Saudi privacy laws.”

The statement on Tuesday from the Attorney General says that, “In case the detainee denies the allegations against him or a settlement is not reached, he will be transferred to Public Prosecution office.” It goes on to say: “Detention of up to six months can be decided by the Attorney General. If warranted, an extension of detention can be ordered by the relevant court.”

This detention period spelled out in the statement is longer than that mentioned in a 2001 decree by the Saudi government indicating a much shorter 24-hour period.  “In all cases, the person under arrest shall not be detained for more than twenty-four hours, except pursuant to a written order from the Investigator.”

An earlier statement issued on November 9 by the Attorney General, Sheik Saud Al Mojeb, said that 209 individuals had been called for questioning by the anti-corruption committee and that 7 people were released without charges. Those released were not named in the statement. It did detail the scale of the operation: “The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large. Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that $100 billion USD has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.”

It goes on to say: “The evidence for this wrongdoing is very strong.” And it lays out the authority that the Attorney General was granted to suspend personal bank accounts. “Only personal bank accounts have been suspended. Companies and banks are free to continue with transactions as usual,” the Attorney General said in the statement, which also said:

There has been a great deal of speculation around the world about the identities of the individuals concerned and the details of the charges against them. In order to ensure that the individuals continue to enjoy the full legal rights afforded to them under Saudi law, we will not be revealing any more personal details at this time.

A source who has worked in Saudi Arabia was skeptical about the odds of Alwaleed getting fair treatment at an eventual trial, should there be one. “There’s no such thing as a fair trial. This is Saudi Arabia. They can take everything from you and you won’t be able to say anything.”

Some of the prince’s foreign business partners are quite concerned about the probe and what will happen next, according to a source familiar with some of Prince Alwaleed’s assets. “No one knows anything” about what’s going on with the corruption probe, he said, so “no one is making any big decisions.”

More Info: www.forbes.com

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