news: Freed Saudis Resurface Billions Poorer After Prince's Crackdown
Almost 15 months after rounding up dozens of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful people and imprisoning them in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has declared the raid a lucrative success.
An anti-corruption commission headed by the crown prince said a total of about $107 billion -- a mix of cash, real estate, companies and securities -- has been recovered from 87 people.
Aside from confirming a $1 billion payment from the former head of the National Guard, the government has said little about the nature of the individual settlements. Less than four months ago, the crown prince told Bloomberg News that $35 billion had been collected from the prisoners. Verifying the commission’s claims is made more challenging by the opacity of the Saudi market. Closely held companies rarely disclose financials and the value of real estate -- the preferred asset of many wealthy Saudis -- is obscured by unrecorded transactions and restrictions on buyers.
Detainees have been trickling out of prison for more than a year. Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, was freed just last Sunday after being held in an undisclosed location on bribery and corruption charges. Also released within the past few weeks: philanthropist and former government minister Amr Al-Dabbagh; former McKinsey & Co. partner Hani Khoja; and Sami Baroum, an ex-managing director of one of the kingdom’s biggest food companies.
Authorities have constrained post-prison life for many of those targeted, with travel bans and heightened surveillance within the country.