Today an Australian news site reported the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s recent investigation into political and business corruption may well enrich the government by an estimated $124 billion. The money comes through negotiated settlements with prisoners held during the massive probe. Details of the proceedings remain confidential.
A Massive Inquiry
Last November, authorities acting under the direction of the 32-year old heir apparent to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, launched the investigation. Police initially held some 200 prominent Saudi citizens and former government advisers in indefinite detention at the Ritz-Carlton, a luxurious 492-guest room resort complex in Riyadh. The authorities ordered the suspension of the bank accounts and the confiscation of many of the belongings of detainees.
The recent probe reportedly focused on some very wealthy and influential individuals. They include broadcast magnate Waleed al-Ibrahim. He owns a popular satellite channel in Saudi Arabia called MBC. Billionaire Saleh Kamal and prominent developer Bakr Bin Laden also became subjects of the inquiry. One of the wealthiest men in Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and 10 other Saudi princes reportedly number among those under investigation. Other detainees reportedly include a previous government finance minister, Ibrahim al-Assaf, and a recent economic planning minister, Adel al-Fakeih
An Opulent Investigation Center
The use of the Ritz-Carlton for the investigation required the abrupt cancellation of a number of guest reservations. The Saudi government compensated the resort for serving as a holding facility by booking every room in the large complex. Officials asked some 350 people to report to the hotel to provide evidence; some witnesses remained under detention only briefly.
During the probe, officials placed the facility under a blackout by prohibiting phone communications and by securing the area. Ultimately, authorities decided to detain 95 of the accused at the Ritz-Carlton. The hotel has remained temporarily closed since the inception of the investigation in November, but reportedly will re-open and accept new guest reservations beginning on February 14th.
The Saudi Arabian government has maintained a policy of leniency towards detainees who express remorse and make settlements with the government. The Saudi Attorney General indicated prosecutors had already agreed to drop charges against 90 of the 95 prisoners at the hotel. He acknowledged the released detainees had agreed to pay the Saudi government compensation for their past actions.