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Riyadh releases former minister, businessman detained in anti-corruption crackdown for cash payment Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Riyadh releases former minister, businessman detained in anti-corruption crackdown for cash payment

Last month, the heir to the throne launched a wide-ranging crackdown [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 December, 2017

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Saudi Arabia released more detainees arrested in a sweeping anti-corruption purge of the kingdom's elite, amid a report that authorities have demanded at least $6 billion from one high-profile businessman.

Saudi Arabia has released more detainees held at the Ritz hotel during a recent allehed anti-corruption drive against businessmen and royals, amid a report that authorities have demanded at least $6 billion for Prince al-Waleed bin Talal's freedom.

Riyadh freed a former minister and a former head of a major company after they struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, pro-government daily Okaz reported on Sunday.

The freed men are former Finance Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz al-Assaf and former chief executive of Saudi Telecom Saud al-Daweesh, a member of Daweesh's tribe told The New Arab.

"The deals struck between Daweesh, Assaf and the royal court include handing over assets held abroad, properties in the United Arab Emirates, private jets, yachts and jewellery," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

The move comes as the Wall Street Journal reported that Riyadh has demanded at least $6 billion from Prince al-Waleed bin Talal to free him from detention at the Ritz.

The price being demanded is among the highest sought for those who have been arrested, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Alwaleed, 62, is the 57th-richest person in the world, with an $18 billion fortune according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Last month the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched a wide-ranging crackdown on dozens of elites, ostensibly to tackle corruption. Experts say it was also a way of consolidating his grip on power.

Most of those detained have struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom.

Rights groups have said the purge, which has seen some 320 people called in for questioning and over 159 people detained, has raised human rights concerns.

Head of the London-based ALQST Saudi rights group, Yahya Assiri, told The New Arab that authorities have failed to guarantee the detainees their right to due process.

"The releases have been carried without a legal basis for their arrests and without informing the public the reasons behind the arrests in the first place," Assiri said.

"This confirms that we do not live in a state that respects rule of law but that we live in the state of one man," he added.

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