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Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed detained in corruption inquiry

Prince Al-Waleed is one of Saudi's most prominent businessmen

November 5, 2017 at 10:15 am

Saudi authorities detained a billionaire global investor and the head of the National Guard as part of an anti-corruption purge that consolidates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s hold on power.

Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained, two senior Saudi officials told Reuters on Sunday.

News of the purge came in the early hours of Sunday after King Salman decreed the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by his 32-year-old son Prince Mohammed, who has amassed power since rising from obscurity less than three years ago.

Read: Saudi Arabia detains princes, ex-ministers in anti-corruption drive

Who is Prince Alwaleed

The detention of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, known for his big bets on Citigroup, Twitter and other top Western companies, could have an impact on billions of dollars of investments around the world.

For many foreigners, Prince Alwaleed – whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion – is the face of Saudi business, appearing frequently on international television and in articles on his investments and lifestyle.

A 2013 Forbes magazine profile described his marble-filled, 420-room Riyadh palace, a private Boeing 747 equipped with a throne, and his 120-acre resort on the edge of the Saudi capital with five homes, five artificial lakes and a mini-Grand Canyon.

He is also known for his outspoken views on politics – making headlines in 2015 when he called Donald Trump a “disgrace” on Twitter during the US election campaign.

Prince Alwaleed’s investments, current and future, may now be in doubt after he was detained in an investigation by a new Saudi anti-corruption body.

Read: Saudi stocks drop after corruption probe detains businessmen, officials

“There will be questions on what this all means,” said a senior executive at a European financial institution, who visited Riyadh late last month to attend a big international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination.

“People will be looking at any kind of international holdings of the people who have been arrested, to see what will be the impact.”

Aside from a stake in Citigroup, Prince Alwaleed, 62, owns significant stakes in Twitter, ride-hailing firm Lyft and Time Warner.

His investment firm Kingdom Holding – whose share price plunged 10 percent on Sunday in response to news of his detention – recently bought about half of a 31.1 percent stake in Saudilender Banque Saudi Fransi from France’s Credit Agricole.

Read: Saudi king sacks top ministers, gives more power to crown prince