Then and Now: Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is Freed from Detention

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The daughter of Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal on Sunday tweeted a picture of her father, expressing happiness at his release from detention, in the first reaction from a family member.

“You’ve lit up the world, you are my world,” Reem bint Al-Waleed tweeted, posting a picture of her father sporting a beard.

Prince Al-Waleed, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up since November 4, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh’s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel.

“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 on Saturday.

The prince is ranked among the richest people in the world, with Forbes once estimating his fortune to be worth $18.7 billion.

Shares in Kingdom Holding Company soared on Sunday after Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, its billionaire owner, returned to his palace in Riyadh almost three months since his arrest and detention over corruption allegations. Investor optimism swiftly lifted shares in Prince Alwaleed’s investment vehicle, by 10 per cent, the daily upper limit. But insiders warned that the future for KHC, alongside the businesses of other magnates released over the weekend from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital, remains far from clear. No detail has been provided on any settlements that may have been reached.

Prince Alwaleed was one of 300 princes and tycoons detained since November 4 in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s purge. He was released together with other suspects, including MBC TV mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim, retail magnate Fawaz Alhokair and Prince Turki bin Nasser. The crackdown is not over completely. Some of those freed from their gilded prison have been told not to travel outside Saudi Arabia for now, say people aware of the matter.

The attorney-general has said that up to 95 suspects who are refusing to settle claims will be taken to trial. But Prince Alwaleed was keen to advertise his release — and proclaim his innocence. Interviewed by Reuters in his hotel suite on Friday, he described his detention as “a misunderstanding,” saying that he did not expect to hand over shares in his company, Kingdom Holding, in which he has a 95 per cent stake.

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Mediabites Editorial – Shoaib Naqvi

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