Saudi Arabia seizes more than $100bn in settlements
Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said that the kingdom has seized more than $100bn in anti-corruption settlements. The amount - SAR400bn ($106.7bn) - represented various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, cash and more, Mojeb said in a statement released by the government’s information office on Tuesday. He added that the total number of individuals summoned for questioning reached 381, while 65 remained in custody as part of a nationwide “anti-corruption purge”. The statement came as Saudi authorities released all remaining detainees from the Ritz-Carlton hotel, after more than two months of detention on allegations of corruption. “There are no longer any detainees left at the Ritz-Carlton,” a Saudi official told Reuters News Agency earlier on Tuesday. Dozens of royal family members, ministers, and top businessmen were arrested in early November during an “anti-corruption crackdown” launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Allegations against those detained included money laundering, bribery, extorting officials. Those arrested were held collectively in the country’s Ritz-Carton hotel. Meanwhile, the hotel was closed to normal business. On Saturday, prominent Saudi businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was released as signs of the purge appeared to be winding down. Prince Alwaleed said during an exclusive Reuters interview that there were “no charges” against him. The crackdown, which came about via a royal decree in November 2017, was in response to “exploita- tion by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money”. Mahjoob Zweiri, a Doha-based professor of contemporary Arab politics, said that the purge is part of Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to consolidate economic, as well as political power in Saudi Arabia. “That required destroying other economic empires in Saudi Arabia,” he told Al Jazeera. Zweiri noted that the nature of charges against those who were detained remains unclear, and that there may be more details of cases revealed - but not in the near future. “There has been a case of mistrust,” he said. “And the authorities will follow up [with those released] to make sure no one is speaking about what happened to maintain the government’s narrative of the story.” According to Zweiri, the purge was a warning message, and only those who play the “politics” and maintain links to the monarch, will be able to conduct business activities in the kingdom. “Again it’s about how well linked you are to the new establishment. There is no accountability … the corruption will of course continue - but in different ways”.