Saudi prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah pays $1bn in cor­rup­tion set­tle­ment

The Guardian Australia - - Politics/World News -

The se­nior Saudi prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah, once seen as a lead­ing con­tender for the throne, has been re­leased from de­ten­tion af­ter pay­ing more than $1bn in a set­tle­ment with au­thor­i­ties, a Saudi of­fi­cial said.

Miteb, 65, the son of the late King Ab­dul­lah and former head of the elite Na­tional Guard, was among dozens of royal fam­ily mem­bers, min­is­ters and se­nior of­fi­cials rounded up as part of a cor­rup­tion in­quiry, partly aimed at strength­en­ing the power of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

The of­fi­cial, who is in­volved in the anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign, said Miteb was re­leased on Tues­day af­ter reach­ing “an ac­cept­able set­tle­ment agree­ment”. The amount was not dis­closed but the of­fi­cial said it is be­lieved to be the equiv­a­lent of more than $1bn (£745m).

“It is un­der­stood that the set­tle­ment in­cluded ad­mit­ting cor­rup­tion

in­volv­ing known cases,” the of­fi­cial said.

A Saudi of­fi­cial said the prince was ac­cused of em­bez­zle­ment, hir­ing non-ex­is­tent em­ploy­ees and award­ing con­tracts to his own firms, in­clud­ing a $10bn deal for walkie talkies and bul­let­proof mil­i­tary gear worth bil­lions of Saudi riyals.

The al­le­ga­tions against the oth­ers who were de­tained in­cluded kick­backs, in­flat­ing gov­ern­ment con­tracts, ex­tor­tion and bribery.

The claims could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

Saudi au­thor­i­ties had been work­ing on strik­ing agree­ments with some of those in de­ten­tion, ask­ing them to hand over as­sets and cash in re­turn for their free­dom.

News of the purge emerged in early Novem­ber, soon af­ter King Sal­man de­creed the cre­ation of an anti-cor­rup­tion com­mit­tee led by Prince Mo­hammed, his 32-year-old favourite son, who has amassed power since his rapid rise three years ago.

The body was given broad pow­ers to in­ves­ti­gate cases, is­sue ar­rest war­rants and travel re­stric­tions, and seize as­sets.

Apart from Miteb, the Saudi of­fi­cial said that at least three other peo­ple al­legedly in­volved in cor­rup­tion cases had fi­nalised set­tle­ment agree­ments.

The pub­lic prose­cu­tor had de­cided to re­lease a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als and to pros­e­cute at least five. The of­fi­cial gave no de­tails of their iden­ti­ties.

The au­thor­i­ties have not re­vealed de­tailed charges against any of the de­tainees. It was also un­clear whether Miteb would have full free­dom or if he would be put un­der house ar­rest. Of­fi­cials from Miteb’s of­fice could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment. An ac­quain­tance of the fam­ily said ear­lier on Twit­ter that Miteb was re­ceiv­ing broth­ers and sons at his palace in Riyadh.

Among the 11 princes, four serv­ing min­is­ters, dozens of former min­is­ters and of­fi­cials, and ty­coons de­tained at the Ritz-Carl­ton ho­tel in Riyadh was the king­dom’s best­known busi­ness­man, Prince Al­waleed bin Talal, who owns stakes in global com­pa­nies such as Cit­i­group and Twit­ter.

How­ever, many ob­servers be­lieve the pri­mary tar­get of the purge was Prince Miteb, who was in charge of the 100,000-strong Na­tional Guard and rep­re­sented the last sig­nif­i­cant cen­tre of power left stand­ing af­ter the top­pling of the former Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Nayef.

By launch­ing a war on cor­rup­tion, Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man com­bined a pop­u­lar cause with the elim­i­na­tion of per­haps the last ob­sta­cles be­tween him and the throne.

As the Sand­hurst-trained pre­ferred son of King Ab­dul­lah, Miteb was once thought to be a lead­ing con­tender for the throne.

Be­fore he was sacked by a royal de­cree on 4 Novem­ber, he was the last re­main­ing mem­ber of Ab­dul­lah’s Sham­mar branch of the fam­ily to re­tain a key po­si­tion at the top of the Saudi power struc­ture, af­ter broth­ers Mishaal and Turki were re­lieved of their posts as gov­er­nors in 2015.

Prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah was head of the Na­tional Guard un­til ear­lier this month. Pho­to­graph: Philippe Wo­jazer/Reuters

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