Saudi prince was freed after 'agreeing to pay more than $1 billion to settle corruption allegations - News and More

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Saudi prince was freed after 'agreeing to pay more than $1 billion to settle corruption allegations

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Miteb bin Abdullah has been released from detention after reportedly paying more than $1 billion (£745 million) to settle embezzlement charges that saw him imprisoned as part of a sweeping anti-corruption purge.

Sixty-five year old Prince Miteb was the highest-profile royal rounded up three weeks ago in an the sting that saw 11 princes and hundreds of officials, former officials and businessmen arrested and detained in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh.

The operation was spearheaded by crown prince Mohammad bin Salman and was seen as a bid to consolidate his power and send a warning shot to future opposition.

After Prince Miteb’s arrest, his position at the head of the Saudi National Guard was quickly filled with a lesser-known prince closely tied with Mr Mohammad.

According to Saudi officials, the government has made cash settlements with dozens of the arrested men, who faced a raft of charges from taking kickbacks, bribery, extortion and fraud.

“They don’t want to take people to court. Saudi Arabia’s judicial system is slow and it is under-equipped to handle cases like this. Recovering assets would also be difficult, as in many cases, assets would be outside the country,” said Jane Kinninmont, a Saudi Arabia expert at Chatham House.
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on November 26, 2017, shows Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman speaking at the meeting of defence ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led anti-terror force in the capital Riyadh CREDIT:  BANDAR AL-JALOUD/ AFP
The rush of cash settlements into government coffers comes at a time when Mr Mohammad is preparing the country for major changes as he works to shift the economy away from oil. Mr Mohammad spearheading social change including given women permission to drive from mid-2018, and he has largely taken the teeth out the country’s feared religious police.

Jailing major royals for the long term may be a bridge too far, Ms Kinninmont suggested. “The country doesn’t have prisons for princes. This is all completely new, and leaving major royals in prison for years could create martyrs."

Prince Miteb, the last of the late King Abdullah’s sons to occupy a significant political position, has a strong support base in the National Guard community.

“In a way, embarrassing him and taking his money may be more profitable and politically astute,” said Ms Kinninmont.

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