Saudis say most detained in graft sweep agree to settlement
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s attorney general said Tuesday that most of the 159 individuals detained in a corruption sweep have agreed to pay a financial settlement a month after the kingdom’s powerful crown prince launched the unprecedented purge against high-level princes, businessmen, officials and military officers.
A little more than a week ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the New York Times that 95 percent of detainees agreed to pay a settlement in cash or shares of their business. The high-level detainees have been held at the luxurious Ritz Carlton in the capital, Riyadh, since Nov. 4.
Among those released after agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum is Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who once headed the National Guard, according to someone close to the negotiations who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
However, Prince Miteb’s brother, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, remains imprisoned, as does billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, among other royals, former ministers and several titans of the Saudi business world, such as Bakr Binladin, who runs the Saudi Binladin Group.
Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement that 320 people have been subpoenaed since the start of the crackdown and that 376 bank accounts belonging to individuals have been frozen “as a precautionary measure.”
“Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements,” al-Mojeb said.
The crown prince heads the newly-formed anti-corruption committee, which has carried out the orders of arrest, investigations and negotiations.
International investors have been spooked by the arrests, while critics and analysts have said the purge was also aimed at sidelining and silencing the crown prince’s rivals and critics both within and outside the royal family.
Al-Mojeb said that settlement agreements help to recoup state funds and assets and eliminate the need for prolonged litigation. He said settlement negotiations could be completed within a few weeks.
The committee has previously said that investigators uncovered at least $100 billion in corruption.
If detainees admit to the allegations, then an agreement is reached for a settlement in exchange for a pardon from the committee, the attorney general said. If an agreement cannot be reached, the detainee will be prosecuted, investigated further and could face six months or more imprisonment.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.