Complex Made Simple

Saudi Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding could be crumbling as negotiations near end

Saudi authorities have the ability to sweeten the deal with those still under detention following the November 2017 crackdown that saw dozens of princes, officials and businessmen rounded up.

A case in point is Saudi state minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was released from detention related to the anti-corruption purge, and is now relishing the opportunity to represent Saudi in Davos’ World Economic Forum this week.

The luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh played the role of half-way solution to give detainees an opportunity to negotiate and settle their differences, but it was recently announced that the hotel was to open for regular business as of Valentine’s Day.

And with that, the options seem to be dwindling for Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, as a new report indicates that negotiations will conclude by end January 2018.

Already a high ranking official in Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding is calling it quits.

What high stakes are in play?

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Settle and move on

Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos will be led by Assaf, who was also a former finance minister and a board member of national oil company Saudi Aramco.

“After he was seen attending a cabinet meeting earlier this month, a Saudi source said he had been cleared of wrongdoing and retained his positions as minister of state and adviser to the king,” Reuters reported.

Released detainees have cut deals with the government, handing over cash or assets in exchange for their freedom.

“Assaf’s restoration appears to suggest that influential figures might keep their positions if they cooperate with the investigations,” said Reuters.

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Princely stress cracks

A top official of Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding has quit, according to Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Mohamed Fahmy is not just any official, but the one responsible for the company’s finances, being the chief financial officer of Alwaleed’s firm.

This is the first sign of cracks appearing in the company since the detention of the company’s founder.

“Mohamed Fahmy, who has worked with the company for about five years and is believed to be a close aide of the Saudi billionaire, will leave the firm at the end of February,” the sources told Reuters.

The sources did say that Fahmy’s departure was not clear.

Fahmy joined Kingdom Holding in 2013 as deputy chief financial officer, and then was appointed as chief financial officer in 2014, according to Reuters.

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End is near

Indian daily, the Economic Times, said Saudi authorities will likely recover more than $100 billion in settlement agreements with corruption suspects in a probe that has implicated dozens of princes and billionaires, quoting a senior government official as telling them.

“Talks with suspects held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh are expected to wrap up by the end of the month, and those who don’t reach deals will be referred to prosecutors,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

This of course points to the fact that Prince Alwaleed and others detained like Saudi Bakr bin Laden are still at the hotel, and not in Ha’il prison as previous reports had indicated.

“Authorities have already agreed to drop charges against about 90 suspects who were released,” Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said in an interview at the hotel late on Sunday, as reported by the daily.

About 95 others were still at the Ritz, he said, including five who were weighing settlement proposals.

“The rest were reviewing evidence presented against them,” he was quoted as saying.

The hotel is taking bookings as of Feb. 14, more than three months after it turned into a makeshift prison.