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Saudi Prince Miteb released; who will reach a financial settlement next?

After more than three weeks of detention, Saudi Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah has been released by the Kingdom authorities, as per the latest reports. Prince Miteb was the most politically influential member of the royal family detained in the corruption purge.

Prince Miteb, who headed the Saudi Arabia’s elite National Guard, is the cousin of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was one of more than 200 princes, ministers, business tycoons and influential figures who were detained in anti-corruption raids clamped on November 4.

Remember: Detainees in Saudi anti-corruption probe revealed

According to the Financial Times (FT), the allegations against Prince Miteb were linked to deals for weapons and military supplies for the National Guard and other branches the of security forces, quoting a person familiar with the investigation.

FT revealed that detainees were being offered settlements under which they could secure their freedom by handing over assets and funds.

The same exact thing was echoed by Bloomberg whose own sources told it last week, “Saudi suspects being held as part of the kingdom’s crackdown on alleged corruption are starting to make payments to settle cases in exchange for freedom.”

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What next?

“Yes, Prince Miteb was released this morning (Tuesday),” a source close to the government told the AFP news agency. However, further details of the release were not disclosed.

Meanwhile, BBC reported that Prince Miteb was freed after agreeing an acceptable settlement with Saudi authorities of more than $1 billion and also three other people have reached settlements with the Saudi government.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, Texas, said the apparent release of Prince Miteb may be a sign that the Saudi authorities are making progress in agreeing settlements with detainees.

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On the front-foot

Saudi Arabia’s clamping on corrupt officials, including princes and ministers, has put this Gulf nation on the forefront of the battle to refurbish the decades-old system.

Undoubtedly it was a decisive action of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to detain dozens of princes, businessmen and senior officials on the charges of corruption. Later on their bank accounts were also stalled to ensure complete transparency during the ongoing probe.

Some of the detainees include big names, who have invested money in diverse portfolios. And there were reports that banks are shying away financing the projects of the companies that are being run by these detained individuals. Therefore there are apprehensions that, in the long run, this could slow down the business activity in the Kingdom.

Over 2000 bank accounts have been frozen by Saudi investigators. If they are kept frozen for long then apparently there could be some negative implications in long run.

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Well thought out move

“The crown prince not only controls the oil policy of the kingdom, he is very much the face of Vision 2030, which is expected to pull the Saudi economy away from its dependence on oil,” Mylene Tisserant, a business intelligence and political risk consultant based in the UAE and recently in Riyadh, told TRENDS.

“Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has imposed a more centralized system of power, far from the traditional consensus model within the wide royal family.  In this sense, the anti-corruption purge could be seen as the latest step of his ambitious project to cement his power over defense, political and economic spheres.”

The investigations into corruption, according to Khalid al-Mehaisen, a member of the commission, had been going on for three years, while the commission has the power to “reveal the bank details of the accused, freeze their assets and funds.”

Suggestions that up to $2 trillion might be involved have been denied by the Attorney General, who put the figure at $100 billion.

Huge cache involved

Billionaire investor Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, is among a group of people detained and under investigation by a new anti-corruption body.

Read: Fear of crackdown: Rich Saudis looking for safe havens

Looking for safe havens

Meanwhile, there are reports that some of the top-notch Saudi individuals have started looking forward to diversify their investments in safe locales and adopt entirely new corporate structures. This is to ensure that their wealth and assets would stay somewhat safe even when there is crackdown on them by the anti-corruption commission’s sleuths.