- Thomson Reuters
- Saudi Arabians detained in last month’s purge are reportedly being asked to hand over assets in order to be set free, the Financial Times reported.
- The move may be part of a drive to boost state coffers that have suffered as a result of low oil prices.
- Some are being asked to hand over as much as 70% of their wealth, a source familiar with events said.
LONDON – Saudi Arabian authorities are reportedly negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen detained in last month’s anti-corruption purge, according to a report in the Financial Times.
Saudi officials are asking some of the businessmen, royals and ministers detained in Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s purge to pay as much as 70% of their wealth in return for their freedom, people familiar with the situation told the Financial Times.
The person said some had begun to hand over assets: “They are making settlements with most of those in the Ritz [Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where they are being held],” they said. “Cough up the cash and you will go home.”
More than 200 businessmen, royals and ministers were called in for questioning in October on allegations of corruption, in a crackdown that affected around $100 billion of funds. The alleged drive to recover assets from the wealthy could be an attempt to boost state funds, the person familiar with events said.
Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on oil, and last year slashed public spending and increased borrowing to cope with low prices. Prices fell sharply in 2014, and in 2015 the International Monetary Fund predicted Saudi could run out of resources within five years, if its rate of spending and the oil price slump continued.
The $100 billion being investigated could increase threefold, the person also said. As well as paying up, detained royals are likely also to be asked to make promises of loyalty, they said.
Some Saudis have viewed the steps positively. “Why should the poor take all the pain of austerity,” one Saudi academic said to the Financial Times, “the rich need to pay their way too.”