Saudi Arabia winding down anti-corruption drive

Talks with suspects are expected to end by the end of the month and authorities will recover $100b in settlements

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia is winding down a successful anti-corruption drive that led to dozens of princes and billionaires being detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.


Talks with suspects are expected to end by the end of the month and authorities will likely recover more than $100 billion in settlements, a senior official said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. Those who don’t reach deals will be referred to prosecutors, the official said.

Authorities have already agreed to drop charges against about 90 suspects who were released, Attorney General Shaikh Saud Al Mojeb said in a separate interview at the Ritz-Carlton late on Sunday.

About 95 people were still at the hotel, including five weighing settlement proposals, with the others reviewing evidence presented against them, he said.

“The royal order was clear,” Al Mojeb said, as Arabic music streamed through loudspeakers in the hotel lobby.

“Those who express remorse and agree to settle will have any criminal proceedings against them dropped.”

Saudi Arabia launched an anti-corruption drive in November, rounding up hundreds of suspects including some of the country’s richest individuals and government ministers.

Billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal was among those detailed at the 492-room Ritz-Carlton, as was former Finance Minister Ebrahim Al Assaf and Adel Al Fakeih, who was removed as minister of economy and planning on the eve of the arrests.

“We are in a new era,” he said. “Corruption will be eradicated. The campaign against corruption won’t stop.”

The settlement payments being processed were a combination of cash, real estate, stocks and other asset classes, the senior official said.

About 350 people have been summoned for questioning since King Salman ordered the anti-graft probe on Nov. 4.

Many came as witnesses or to provide information, with some spending only a few hours or less at the Ritz, the official said.

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