January 30, 2018 / 12:51 PM / 9 months ago

Saudi government says it's seizing over $100 billion in corruption purge

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s government has arranged to seize over $100 billion in financial settlements with businessmen and officials detained in its crackdown on corruption, the attorney general said on Tuesday.

Cars drive past the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

“The estimated value of settlements currently stands at more than 400 billion riyals ($106 billion) represented in various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets,” Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said in a statement.

The huge sum, if it is successfully recovered, would be a major financial boost for the government, which has seen its finances strained by low oil prices. The state budget deficit this year is projected at 195 billion riyals.

The announcement also appeared to represent a political victory for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the purge last November and predicted at the time that it would net about $100 billion in settlements.

Dozens of top officials and businessmen were detained in the purge, many of them confined and interrogated at Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

In total, the investigation subpoenaed 381 people, some of whom testified or provided evidence, Mojeb said, adding that 56 people had not reached settlements and were still in custody, down from 95 early last week. Some cases are expected to go for trial, authorities have said previously.

Over 100 detainees are believed to have been released. Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of global investor Kingdom Holding, and Waleed al-Ibrahim, who controls influential regional broadcaster MBC, were freed last weekend.

Writing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Torchia; Editing by Catherine Evans

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