Many of the original group incarcerated in the Ritz Carlton in November have since been released having paid to secure their freedom. The fee demanded for Prince Alwaleed, at $6 billion, is believed to be among the highest ransoms demanded by the authorities but few people believe Alwaleed will give in to the outrageous demands.
Allegations levelled against Prince Alwaleed include extortion, bribery and money laundering. However, hard evidence against the outspoken reformist has yet to be presented and many of Alwaleed’s associates at home and abroad seriously doubt that any will be found. The word on the street is that it is not his deeds but the extent of Prince Alwaleed’s fortune – believed to be in excess of $18.5 billion – that made him a target for arrest.
The 63 year old Prince has amassed a vast portfolio that includes holdings in CitiBank, Disney, Twitter and London’s Savoy hotel. “Prince Alwaleed is an astute businessman who has made an enormous fortune but his associates widely describe him as a man of integrity and honour. Ironically, the situation in which he finds himself, is the price he is being asked to pay for his success,” a seasoned Saudi analyst told The Middle East Online.
A source close to the Prince told The Wall Street Journal: ““He wants a proper investigation into the charges being made against him which he emphatically disputes.”
In an interview with the New York Times last month, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman said that some 10 per cent percent of government funds had been lost to corruption each year since 1980. He added that 95 per cent of those caught up in the corruption probe had agreed to paying settlements but he noted: “About 1 per cent are able to prove they are clean and their case was dropped right there. About four percent say they are not corrupt and with their lawyers want to go to court.”
A retired Saudi Arabian diplomat told The Middle East Online: “There is no doubt Saudi Arabia needed reform but Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has gone about it in entirely the wrong way. It is immoral and plainly wrong to simply target rich members of Saudi society, incarcerate them and demand money for their release. Some of the people locked up in the Ritz, Prince Alwaleed among them, are heroes to young Saudi men and women, people who have brought benefits to Saudi Arabia and its people. This whole sorry affair has cast the Crown Prince and the kingdom in a bad light. Mohammad Bin Salman claims he wants reform to bring the kingdom into the 21st century but, if that is the case, he has chosen an extraordinary way to initiate such change.