Among the most prominent cases still unresolved in Saudi Arabia’s declared crackdown on corruption is that of billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. People with knowledge of the matter say Alwaleed is balking at demands that could see him relinquish control of Kingdom Holding Co, and is resisting any suggestion of wrongdoing.
But a prominent Saudi official detained has returned to work, joining the architect of the purge at a weekly meeting of the cabinet.
Ibrahim al-Assaf, a minister of state and former finance minister, appeared unsmiling in a photograph of the gathering released by the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday. The meeting was also attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who led the anti-graft sweep in early November that ended with dozens of prominent princes, officials and businessmen detained at the luxurious Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.
Al-Assaf was among a group reportedly released late last month, and his resumption of official duties is the latest sign the kingdom may be preparing to end one of its stranger episodes in recent years. Authorities have said they hope to collect as much as $100bn from financial settlements with detainees, in exchange for their freedom. The government is now trying to wrap up the probe, and the attorney general said last month that settlement talks are “expected to be concluded within a few weeks.”
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, a former head of the national guard who is said to have paid $1bn for his release, was recently photographed attending a horse race with Prince Mohammed. His arrest fuelled speculation that the crackdown was more about tightening the crown prince’s grip on power ahead of a crucial few months for his blueprint to reinvent Saudi Arabia.
The Ritz-Carlton, previously available for reservations on February 1, is now fully booked through February 14 - when rooms should be available from 2,489 riyals ($664) a night.
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