Saudi authorities offer freedom deals to princes and businessmen

Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom, say people briefed on the discussions.

In some cases the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70 per cent of suspects’ wealth, two of the people said, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers.

The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic corruption purge.

The crackdown has led to the detention of hundreds of royals, ministers and the country’s richest magnates, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire, Waleed al-Ibrahim, the founder of Middle East Broadcasting Center, which owns the Saudi satellite television channel Al Arabiya, and Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin construction group.

Some of the suspects, many of whom have been detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh since last week, are keen to secure their release by signing over cash and corporate assets, say people close to the negotiations.

“They are making settlements with most of those in the Ritz,” said one adviser. “Cough up the cash and you will go home.”

The settlements aim to recover billions of dollars allegedly accrued through corruption at a time when the government is grappling with a recession triggered by prolonged low oil prices and a budget deficit of $79bn last year.

Read full article by Simeon Kerr, Financial Times, November 16, 2017.


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