Saudi Arabia elites released after paying corruption settlements



Some of Saudi Arabia's most powerful men detained in November in an anti-corruption purge have been released.

Among those set free are Waleed al-Ibrahim, the head of MBC television network, and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, a former chief of the royal court.

They have paid substantial financial settlements, reports say - though the amounts have not been made public.

More than 200 princes, politicians, and wealthy businessmen were detained in the crackdown.

Since then, they have been held in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, which is due to reopen on 14 February.

The settlements are likely to have been costly.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was released at the end of November, paid more than $1bn (£750m).

Media reports suggest that Mr al-Ibrahim's deal may have included his controlling share in MBC - the largest media company in the Middle East.

The anti-corruption drive was instigated by Prince Mohammed bin Salman - who has been accused of using the investigation to remove opponents and consolidate his power.

In the aftermath of the purge, Saudi Arabia's attorney general said at least $100bn (£76bn) had been misused through systemic corruption and embezzlement going back decades.

The detentions - and the expensive settlements - are being characterised by the state as an attempt to recover those funds.

Many more of those detained remain in the Ritz Carlton under guard, until it reopens for Valentine's Day in mid-February.

Those who do not reach settlements before then are expected to be sent to prison to await trial.

Meanwhile, one of the highest-profile detainees, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told Reuters news agency on Saturday that he expected to be cleared of wrongdoing and "released from custody within days".

The billionaire - who is one of the country's richest people - said he expected to keep full control of his investment firm.