Cash for freedom: Saudi Arabia says corruption suspects ready to settle

Saudi hotel becomes luxurious makeshift prison
Saudi hotel becomes luxurious makeshift prison

Most of the Saudi princes and officials detained in a corruption crackdown last month are ready to hand over cash and assets in exchange for charges being dropped, according to the government.

Saudi Arabia's attorney general, Sheikh Saud Al-Mujib, said in a statement late Tuesday that he expected to conclude settlements with most of the detainees -- who include billionaire businessman and global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal -- within a few weeks.

"The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements," Sheikh Al-Mujib said.

Saudi authorities arrested dozens of royals, businessmen and senior government officials on November 4. Those detained included the former head of the royal court Khaled Al-Tuwaijri, and Saudi media mogul Waleed Al-Ibrahim.

The investigation is being overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was appointed as head of a new anti-corruption committee just hours before the arrests began.

Related: Saudi Arabia's reforming crown prince has youth on his side

More than 200 people were being questioned at one point, and there are still 159 in detention, according to the statement. One of those released was son of the late King Abdullah, Prince Miteb, after an undisclosed financial settlement was agreed.

Many of the detainees are being held at Riyadh's 5-star Ritz Carlton, which has been out of bounds to other guests since the crackdown started. The hotel is "fully booked" until February 13, 2018.

Sheikh Al Mujib said the Saudi central bank has frozen the personal accounts of 376 people linked to the investigation "as a precautionary measure."

Authorities are currently negotiating with detainees, "offering them a settlement that will facilitate recouping the state's funds and assets, and eliminate the need for prolonged litigation," he added.

If a settlement is not reached, then those facing the allegations will be referred to state prosecutors.

Saudi estimates that corruption has cost the kingdom at least $100 billion over decades.

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