Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed freed after 'settlement'

Saudi Arabia uses aggression abroad to calm clerics at home

Saudi Arabia on Friday released the owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC almost three months after his arrest in an anti-corruption drive targeting the kingdom's elite, sources told AFP. He had been held since November on somewhat nebulous corruption charges, along with several other prominent Saudi royalty and business people.

This came hours after he gave his first interview in detention, saying he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Alwaleed, a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, was freed from the "world's most expensive prison" on Saturday.

The government said most of those detained agreed monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, which could earn state coffers about $100bn.(£70bn).

The government has said that it uncovered at least US$100 billion in corruption and that any sums recovered so far would be used to fund a cash assistance program for middle- and lower-income citizens estimated to cost US$8.5 billion this year.

After freedom, the prince said, he plans to continue living in Saudi Arabia and getting back to run his business.

The prince (62) had been held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, since November 4th, when he was detained in the anti-corruption drive being spearheaded by his cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman's son and heir to the throne.

Outside Prince Alwaleed's Riyadh palace, dozens of cars lined the entrances, as a huge Saudi flag flapped above.

Reports say that a lot of them have been released after financial settlement with the kingdom.

He said he is innocent and has not given up any assets.

Prince Al-Waleed is worth $18.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Prince Alwaleed had appeared frail in comparison to his last public appearance in a televised interview last October, but confirmed that he had been treated well, dismissing rumours that said otherwise.

According to Prince Alwaleed, he felt "so comfortable, so relaxed.like at home" in the Ritz.

When asked whether the prince was still the head of his publicly listed Kingdom Holding Company, the source who asserted he was guilty of corruption replied: "For sure".

The prince said he was able to communicate with family members and executives at his business during his time in detention.

He also highlighted all comfort amenities that were available to him, including a private office, dining room and kitchen, which was fully stocked with his preferred vegetarian meals.

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