Saudi prince suspected of corruption released

Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal released after nearly three months in detention in connection with massive corruption probe.

Elad Benari ,

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal
Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal

Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal was released on Saturday after nearly three months in detention following a "settlement" with authorities, AFP reported.

Prince Al-Waleed, who has been dubbed “the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia”, is one of 350 suspects who have been arrested since November 4 as part of a widespread corruption investigation. In addition to the prince, those detained included business tycoons and ministers. They have been held in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel since their arrest.

The prince was released following an undisclosed financial agreement with the government, similar to deals that authorities struck with most other detainees in exchange for their freedom.

"The attorney general this morning approved the settlement with Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal," paving the way for his release, a government source told AFP without disclosing figures.

When asked whether the prince was still the head of his publicly listed Kingdom Holding Company, the source who asserted he was guilty of corruption replied: "For sure."

A business associate also confirmed to AFP that the tycoon had been released. Neither the prince nor the Saudi information ministry was available for comment.

Prince Al-Waleed is the latest in a series of high-profile detainees to be freed from the hotel, as the campaign against elite corruption launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman draws to a close.

Authorities on Friday released media mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of influential Arab satellite network MBC.

Another high-profile detainee, former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, was released recently following his "settlement" with authorities which reportedly exceeded $1 billion, according to AFP.

Prince Al-Waleed is worth $18.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Kingdom Holding -- in which he has a 95 percent stake -- owns The Savoy in London, the Fairmont Plaza and the famed George V hotel in Paris.

He has also invested in Lyft and Twitter and in 2015 launched a pan-Arab satellite news channel aimed at challenging established networks in the region such as Al-Jazeera.

Prince Al-Waleed, who is a member of the Saudi royal family, is also no stranger to controversial statements. In 2016, he issued what was at the time a rare call for an end to the country’s notorious ban on women driving. He explained that allowing women to drive is a matter not just of rights but of economic necessity. The ban was lifted in September.

Before that, he engaged in a mini Twitter war with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, after Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

“You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America. Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win,” bin Talal wrote Trump at the time.

Trump fired back hours later in a tweet of his own, writing, “Dopey Prince @Alwaleed_Talal wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected. #Trump2016”.