Saudis may squeeze more than $100bn from arrested billionaires in ‘corruption purge’

Saudi Arabia may collect more than the originally planned $ 100 billion from the detainees in the world’s most luxurious prison – the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh – Bloomberg reports, quoting its sources.

The so-called anti-corruption campaign is expected to conclude by the end of the month, according to the media. The amount expected to be collected is roughly equivalent to the yearly economic output of Morocco or Ukraine.

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FILE PHOTO: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh © Giuseppe Cacace

Saudi Arabia launched the purge in November, arresting hundreds of the country’s elite, including billionaires, government ministers, and royal family members.

About 90 suspects have been released, Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said Sunday, while 95 people were still being held at the hotel.

“The royal order was clear,” Al Mojeb said. “Those who express remorse and agree to settle will have any criminal proceedings against them dropped.”

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is among those still detained. Saudi authorities say the arrests are part of a campaign to fight corruption, while many experts say it is an attempt by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cement his power and replenish the kingdom’s budget, which has been depleted due to low oil prices.

Last week, the media reported that the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh will start receiving guests again next month.

In December, Saudi Arabia announced a $ 261 billion budget for 2018, the largest in its history. The kingdom’s budget deficit in 2017 was estimated at $ 61 billion, showing a steady decline from $ 79 billion in 2016 and $ 98 billion in 2015.

This year, Riyadh plans to lower it to $ 52 billion. About 50 percent of the new budget will be financed from non-oil sources, the crown prince said.

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