RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Stocks in Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment firm surged 10 per cent on Sunday, the day after the billionaire investor was released from nearly three months in detention in connection with an anti-corruption campaign.
The prince, 62, is one of the world’s wealthiest people, with investments in several major firms, including Citigroup, Lyft, Twitter and international hotel chains. He is chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, which closed 9.97 per cent higher on the opening day of this week’s trading on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange.
The prince’s associates told The Associated Press he was freed Saturday after more than 80 days in detention at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Dozens of high-profile detainees were held there in connection with the anti-corruption sweep that began in early November. Prince Alwaleed was among at least 11 princes detained in the probe, in addition to dozens of businessmen, officials and military officers.
Most detainees have since been released after agreeing to hand over substantial financial assets to the government. It was not immediately known if the prince had to relinquish financial assets in exchange for his release, as other princes, ministers and businessmen have reportedly had to do.
The government has declined to officially name those arrested in the sweep or disclose the specific allegations against them. Saudi officials could not be reached for comment on Prince Alwaleed’s release.
While he was never seen as politically influential, the prince’s penchant for fame and his holdings in Western firms made him one of the most talked about Saudi royals abroad.
He told Reuters hours before his release from his luxurious suite at the Ritz-Carlton that no charges were brought against him, saying his detention had nothing to do with politics, economics or corruption. He said he would remain chairman of Kingdom Holding and retain all his stakes in the investment firm.
The purported anti-corruption sweep is spearheaded by Prince Alwaleed’s much younger cousin, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Critics say the crown prince has used the purge against high-level individuals to wrangle control of key Saudi companies, sideline potential rivals and silence critics alarmed by his rapid rise to power as he prepares to inherit the throne from his father, King Salman.
Saudi authorities say the campaign is aimed at improving the kingdom’s business environment and that sums recovered will be used to fund a cash assistance program for middle and lower-income citizens estimated to cost $8.5 billion this year.