Did Saudi Billionaire Alwaleed Settle For A Secret Agreement With The Government To Come Out Clean From Anti-Corruption Crackdown?
According to TV reports, the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the chairman of Kingdom Holding, had a secret agreement with the government for his release after being detained for almost three months.
The prince declined to disclose the details of his “confirmed understanding” with authorities in the interview, which aired on Tuesday, but said it was easy to verify that he still held a 95 percent stake in his global investment firm.
“When I say it is a confidential and secret agreement, an arrangement that is based on a confirmed understanding between me and government of Saudi Arabia, I have to respect that,” he said. He also added that the process with the government was ongoing.
He revealed that he was in talks with the country’s emerging sovereign wealth fund about co-investments in domestic projects, and that Kingdom Holding was looking at splitting its $13 billion of assets by spinning off some holdings.
The Saudi Arabia’s most prominent figure was released in January after being held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton, along with scores of royals, senior officials and businessmen, on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Most detainees were released after reaching financial settlements that netted just over $100 billion for the state, the attorney general has said, without providing details.
The prince said in his interview that he maintained his innocence and expects to keep full control of his firm. A senior Saudi official would not confirm that claim but said any settlements included an admission of guilt.
Due to lack of information, rumours are doing the rounds about whether Prince Alwaleed secured his freedom by forfeiting part of his fortune – estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion – or stood up to authorities and won.
The prince confirmed that he will continue to invest in Saudi Arabia and there was no hard feelings towards his uncle King Salman and his cousin Prince Mohammed.
“It’s business as usual,” he said.
The prince said he was open to considering investments in NEOM, the PIF’s planned futuristic $500 billion city in Saudi Arabia’s northwest corner, once its basic infrastructure was in place.
Asked about plans to restructure his firm, the prince said Kingdom Holding was planning to split its $13 billion of assets by spinning off its domestic property and other holdings.
“It will take some time as we are still developing that matter,” he said.
It was informed that the prince was working with advisers, including Goldman Sachs, to look for investments as large as $3 billion for Kingdom. The company is “on the verge” of getting between $1 billion and $2 billion in financing facilities, he said.