Two weeks after we reported that Saudi Arabia's billionaire prince Alwaleed Bin Talal was reportedly carted off from the Riyadh Ritz Carlton to Saudi Arabia's highest security prison after refusing to pay a $6 billion "freedom fee" to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to secure his freedom, the flamboyant billionaire and Twitter investor appears to have finally cracked, and according to the WSJ, Saudi authorities on Saturday finally released Alwaleed, more than two months after he was detained in what was described to be a "widespread crackdown on corruption" in the kingdom but was really just a shakedown of some of the country's richest royals as well as arrests of MbS' political opponents.
The FT quoted a colleague of bin Talal who said that He sounded very happy, well and the same"... if maybe a little bit poorer.
"Prince al-Waleed is already at his house in Riyadh and is expected to resume his business activities as normal", the WSJ reported citing sources. While it was previously disclosed that Saudi authorities demanded at least $6 billion from al-Waleed to free him, it wasn’t clear what if any "settlement" the prince agreed to pay; he has previously denied wrongdoing and fought allegations of bribery, extortion and money laundering.
Alwaleed will remain in control of Kingdom Holding Co. after reaching the settlement a senior government official cited by Bloomberg, which would suggest that the amount of money exchanging hands was substantial. The official also declined to provide details of settlement, and "cannot confirm or deny" whether attorney general is convinced of Alwaleed’s innocence.
"Settlements don’t happen unless the accused acknowledges violations and documents that in writing and pledges that he won’t repeat them. This is the general principle of all who were detained in corruption cases recently and not only Alwaleed bin Talal."
Alwaleed joins several other prominent Saudi businessmen who have reached financial settlements with the kingdom in the past few days pruchasing their release, including Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of regional television network MBC, which reportedly was semi-nationalized as part of the deal.
Other prominent names include Fawaz Alhokair, a major shareholder in fashion retailer Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co.; Khalid al-Tuwaijri, a former chief of the Royal Court; and Turki bin Nasser, a former head of the country’s meteorology and environmental protection agency.
The releases of prominent Saudis appears to indicate that bin Salman's purge is winding down, and the Ritz is set to reopen next month as a five-star hotel.
In total, Saudi Arabia is said to have secured about $100 billion after many of the more than 200 detained agreed to settle and were released, Saudi officials said. However, as the FT adds, the government will have to rely on asset seizures rather than cash, the finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan, said on Thursday.
The reason: western bankers say Saudi attempts to recover cash from overseas bank accounts have proved fruitless. “They are very smart people — they don’t leave cash in bank accounts, they find ways to hide this money in various assets,” Mr Jadaan told a session at the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos.
This is worth noting just in case someone is still confused about the utility of bitcoin.
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Last Wednesday, the Saudi public prosecutor said that officials were moving ahead with plans to prosecute 95 people who were still detained and have declined to pay what the government describes as financial settlements.