Saudi Prince Accused of Graft Pays US$ 1 Billion for Freedom

Saudi prince Miteb bin Abdullah, former contender for the throne, paid more than US$ 1 billion to buy his way out of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh where he was being held as a corruption suspect, the BBC said Wednesday.

30779270601 22f46e4376 zPrince Miteb bin Abdullah meeting with U.S. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (Photo: D. Myles Cullen, CC BY 2.0)Miteb, son of the late King Abdullah and former chief of the National Guard, reached a settlement for his release, which included the payment and a confession, a Saudi official told Reuters. According to the official, three other people suspected of graft recently made similar deals with the government.

The prince was among 19 detainees held at luxury hotels across Saudi Arabia following a massive anti-corruption crackdown earlier this month. An anti-corruption body newly created by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the operation that originally detained 201 suspects and froze around 1,700 bank accounts. The crackdown resulted in the strengthening of Prince Mohammed’s power, as its targets were members of the royal family and elite businesses.

Many observers thought Prince Miteb was the primary target of the power grab, according to The Guardian. Prince Miteb was once the greatest obstacle in Prince Mohammed’s race to the throne. He was the preferred son of King Abdullah, and one of the least remaining members at the top of the royal hierarchy.

The allegations against Miteb included “embezzlement, hiring ghost employees and awarding contracts to his own firms, including a deal for walkie talkies and bulletproof military gear,” according to the anonymous official that confided to Reuters.

The settlement appears to be part of a prior offer from the state for detainees to give a large portion of their wealth in exchange for their freedom. Authorities believed they could eventually recover over US$100 billion of illicit funds from such settlements. The Wall Street Journal estimated the graft probe could result in a greater profit of $US 800 billion.