Monday , October 22 2018

Billionaire freed after settlement

AMMAN, Dec 19, (RTRS): Palestinian billionaire Sabih al- Masri, Jordan’s most powerful businessman, returned to Amman on Tuesday after his release in Saudi Arabia secured when he agreed to pay an unspecified amount of money, sources close to the matter said.

Masri was detained for questioning last week over his alleged links with Saudi business partners among royals, ministers and officials who were rounded up last month in an unprecedented anti-corruption purge.

Masri, chairman of Amman-based Arab Bank, Jordan’s largest lender, was taken into custody just before he was planning to leave Saudi Arabia after chairing meetings of Saudi companies he owns, informed sources said. “He is at his home now in Amman,” said a family source.

Masri, a Saudi citizen, said from his home in Riyadh on Sunday after his release that the Saudi authorities had accorded him “all respect”. Saudi officials have not commented on his detention. Jordanian authorities privately said King Abdullah intervened to secure his release. A source familiar with the matter said Masri was freed after reaching a settlement to return an unspecified amount of money.

There was no coment from the Masri family. “There is no way Masri has been freed without agreeing to some settlement. The Saudis are telling anyone who has made huge sums of money that they have to pay back some of that wealth,” the source said. Another source said Riyadh saw these settlements not as blackmail but an obligation to reimburse money taken illegally from the world’s top oil producer over several decades.

Saudi authorities have already succeeded in reaching financial settlements with dozens of royal family members, senior officials and wealthy businessmen in the crackdown spearheaded by powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Around 200 people in total have been questioned in the crackdown, authorities said last month. Saudi authorities estimate they could eventually recover around $100 billion of illicitly held funds. They have been working on reaching agreements with suspects detained at Riyadh’s luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel, asking them to hand over assets and cash in return for their freedom.

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