01/30/2018, 13.17
SAUDI ARABIA
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Riyadh releases (after billion dollar payment) prisoners of anti-corruption campaign

The authorities announced the release of all those arrested and held for three months in the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The detainees have reached an economic agreement and charges have been dropped. Contrasting voices about the liberation of the businessman Al-Walid bin Talal. He reportedly paid six billion dollars, but is still be under house arrest.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - The Saudi authorities have announced the release of all the people arrested in November and locked up in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, in the context of the anti-corruption campaign desired by the kingdom’s leadership. This morning a senior government official reported the detainees found an agreement of an economic nature that allowed them to return to freedom.

Dozens of prominent personalities from the Saudi kingdom, including princes, former ministers, businessmen and government officials have been detained for three months and subjected to numerous interrogations. The hotel, one of the most famous in the capital, has been transformed into a luxury prison and forbidden to the public.

According to rumors, the anti-corruption campaign launched by the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs), number two of the wahhabite ultraconservative kingdom, masks a real purge of rival families, to consolidate power. In total, according to the Saudi network al-Arabiya, more than 350 people - including princes, ministers, former ministers and powerful businessmen - have been arrested.

According to some sources, the government has seized up to $ 100 billion of "illicit proceeds". Having reached the goal, explains the source behind anonymity, "there are no more prisoners inside the Ritz-Carlton". However, others speak of people who have refused to pay and for this reason are still kept in custody and transferred to other places of detention scattered across Saudi Arabia.

These would include the famous businessman and Saudi billionaire Al-Walid bin Talal, one of the richest and most influential men in the kingdom. He has always declared himself innocent, but in order to leave the capital's prison hotel he has had to pay out a sum of money that, according to some, is around six billion dollars. The Saudi authorities announced his release last weekend. However, some sources close to the 63-year-old billionaire say that he is still under house arrest and cannot leave the country. Man would still be under strict surveillance and "not completely free".

The former Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf was also released last week; charges made against him were dropped. Unlike bin Talal, he achieved full rehabilitation and can resume his ministerial function as an adviser to the king.

In these months of investigations, the Saudi authorities questioned 320 people and froze over two thousand bank accounts. The money recovered by the government in the context of the anti-corruption campaign should be reinvested to finance a million-dollar aid plan for the population, in difficulty since the progressive increase in the cost of living and the cut in state subsidies. The ultimate goal of Riyadh is to diversify the economic resources of the country, so far linked exclusively to oil revenues, in the context of the "Vision2030" campaign launched by the Crown Prince Mbs.

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