Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdom's leading international business personalities, has been released from detention, more than two months after he was taken into custody in what the Saudi authorities described as a sweeping crackdown on corruption.
His release came hours after he told Reuters in an interview at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel that he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing and be freed within days. The Prince's arrest sent Shockwaves through the international business community and, many analysts would argue, brought about a widespread loss of faith in the kingdom's business practices. As one international speculator told The Middle East Online: "There are ways and ways of doing business and none of them include arbitrarily incarcerating business legends such as Prince Alwaleed. He is probably the world's best known Saudi Arabian, not only for his business acumen but also for all the charitable works he does across the globe.
"It's true that there needs to be all kinds of reform in business practise in Saudi Arabia and, while one must applaud the Crown Prince for his commitment to ensuring they are brought about, anyone who knows Alwaleed would say his ideas are more similar to those of the Crown Prince, than they are different. He has long been a great advocate for transparency and reform, not only in business but across the board," the analyst concluded.
The decision to free him, and the release of several other well-known tycoons, suggested the main part of the corruption probe was winding down after it sent Shockwaves through Saudi Arabia's business and political establishment.
In his first interview since being detained, conducted hours before his release, Prince Alwaleed told Reuters he maintained his innocence of any corruption in talks with the authorities. He added that he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding Co without being required to hand assets to the state. He confirmed that he had been able to communicate with executives at his business while detained.
Prince Alwaleed, who is 63, described his confinement as a "misunderstanding" and said he supported reform efforts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "There are no charges," the Prince noted. "There are just some discussions between me and the...