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Palestinian billionaire Masri released by Saudis, to leave country soon

Sabih Masri, chairman of PALTEL Group board, attends a press conference about the profits of the PALTEL Group in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 20, 2008 [MaanImages/Haytham Othman]
Sabih Masri, chairman of PALTEL Group board, attends a press conference about the profits of the PALTEL Group in the West Bank city of Ramallah October 20, 2008 [MaanImages/Haytham Othman]

The Palestinian billionaire Sabih al-Masri, returned to his home in Riydah after being detained by Saudi authorities and is expected to be allowed to leave the country soon, sources close to the family said on Sunday.

Sabih al-Masri, Jordan’s most influential businessman and the chairman of its largest lender Arab Bank, was detained in Saudi Arabia for questioning after a business trip to Riyadh, family sources and friends said on Saturday.

Masri’s detention, which follows the biggest purge of the Saudi kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history, has sent shockwaves through business circles in Jordan and the Palestinian territories, where the billionaire has major investments.

Reasons for Masri’s detention were not clear but political sources said the Saudis might have used him to put pressure on Jordan’s King Abdullah not to attend a Muslim summit last week to discuss US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

He is the founder of Saudi Astra Group, which has wide interests in diversified industries ranging from agro-industry to telecommunications, construction and mining across the region.

“Masri was heading to the airport and they told him to stay where you are and they picked him up,” said a source familiar with the matter who asked not to be named.

He cancelled a dinner in Amman on Wednesday that he had invited board members of Arab Bank and business associates to attend on his return.

The Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment, while Masri could not be reached for comment.

His confidants had warned him not to travel to the Saudi capital after mass arrests of Saudi royals, ministers and businessmen in early November, the sources said.

“He has been answering questions about his business and partners,” said a source familiar with the matter who did not elaborate nor confirm he was held.

A source close to the family later said that “while Masri is currently restricted from leaving Saudi Arabia, no official charges have been filed against him.”

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Middle EastNewsPalestineSaudi Arabia
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