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Report: Saudi Arabia to auction detained billionaire’s real estate, cars

Saudi billionaire, Maan Al-Sanea [Twitter]
Saudi billionaire, Maan Al-Sanea [Twitter]

Saudi authorities are preparing to auction billions of dollars of real estate and cars belonging to billionaire Maan Al-Sanea.

Al-Sanea was arrested on 18 October last year following a decree by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, weeks before a wide scale “anti-corruption” purge saw hundreds of princes and officials detained and locked up in the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Most have been released after being exonerated or agreeing to give the state money, assets or real estate.

The Al-Sanea case is separate from the main anti-graft campaign. The businessman – who was ranked one of the world’s 100 richest people by Forbes magazine in 2007- was detained by authorities for unpaid debt dating back to 2009.

Creditors have spent the past nine years pursuing Saad Group, which is based in the city of Khobar in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, for debt that some estimate to be between 40 billion riyals ($10.67 billion) and 60 billion riyals.

Etqaan Alliance, the consortium appointed by Saudi authorities to liquidate assets owned by Al-Sanea and the company in an effort to repay creditors, plans to begin selling the company’s assets in Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

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The liquidator has produced a slick video that it has posted on YouTube with the tagline “the sale everyone has been waiting for in Khobar” featuring some of the properties and land to be sold.

A brochure accompanying the sale includes a list of 20 plots of land owned by Saad Trading, part of Saad Group, and Al-Sanea. The properties are mostly located in Khobar. The largest unit is a 484,407 square metre plot of land that includes buildings and a sewage water treatment plant.

The brochure does not include valuations, but the sources said the real estate was valued at around 4.4 billion riyals ($1.17 billion), based on an official list of real estate provided to authorities.

A source at the Ministry of Justice confirmed to Reuters an auction would be launched this month to sell vehicles, equipment, a large quantity of building materials and some property before the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which starts in May.

According to the sources who have seen the official list provided to authorities, Saad owns an estimated 3.5 billion riyals ($0.93 billion) of real estate, while Al-Sanea personally owns an estimated 6.8 billion riyals ($1.81 billion). Much of that is in Riyadh, Dammam and Khobar.

Saad owns 923 vehicles, including trucks, buses and cars, according to the sources who had seen the list provided to authorities, while Al-Sanea has 26 vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Hummer, and Cadillac Concord.

The sale does not include the 750-bed Saad Specialist Hospital in Khobar, which the government is in talks with private companies to run, or foreign assets owned by Al-Sanea or Saad.

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The proceeds from Etqaan’s auction will be distributed to creditors via a legal process overseen by a three-judge tribunal set up in 2016 to handle claims against Saad and Ahmad Hamad Al-Gosaibi & Bros Co, another big local conglomerate that defaulted on debt in 2009.

In an effort to stave off the liquidation process, Saad late last year launched its own process to engage with creditors. It hired a financial consultancy, Reemas Group, to offer a proposed settlement covering $4 billion in debt.

Reemas did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Saad Group has been told by the court that it needs to obtain the agreement of creditors to its plan as soon as possible and then the court will consider the proposal, according to the sources.

Many have argued that Saudi’s campaign of arrests and current crackdown on its wealthiest nations is an attempt by the state, which has been badly affected by the sharp drop in petrol prices, to raise much needed funds.

Saudi Arabia has relied on petrol since it was first discovered in 1938. Black gold has made the country, and its rulers, one of the richest in the world, but that all crumbled as petrol prices dropped.

The arrests, it is hoped, will raise $100 billion for state coffers, critics have said. This has become more evident as princes were released from detention and their assets taken from them.

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