Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview with the New York Times published Thursday that 95% of those detained in the Riyadh Ritz Carlton on alleged corruption charges have agreed to hand over assets in exchange for their freedom. But, he said, about 4% deny any wrongdoing and are pursuing court action.
For those curious about the fate of one detainee — the most prominent investor in Saudi Arabia, Prince Alwaleed — facts have been scarce. Charges against him have not yet been made public, and he hasn’t been heard from since his arrest, according to a report on Monday. And, despite more than 25 years of investing and building relations with powerful business elites in the West, long-time friends and business partners have been hesitant to offer support.
Bloomberg is reporting Tuesday that Alwaleed’s business associates, with few facts to work with, are wary of crossing Prince Mohammed or coming out against his crackdown publicly. Bill Gates is one exception, but he was also willing to say only so much.
“I’m only aware of what I’ve read in the press, and I can’t speculate,” Gates was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. “Prince Alwaleed has been an important partner in my foundation’s work…”
Privately, it is a different matter. Many of Alwaleed’s contacts in the US say they don’t believe he is guilty of corruption and also speculate as to whether the Prince Mohammed’s anti-graft campaign will alienate the foreign investors he is trying to attract.
Apparently, that is unlikely to translate into public criticism of the arrests.
“There is a recognition that attempting to interfere in the process in Saudi Arabia is unlikely to yield a lot of results, given that this has been driven by Mohammed bin Salman himself,” Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East & North Africa at Eurasia Group, was quoted by Blooomberg as saying.