Saudi billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi released from detention

The tycoon, who had a net worth estimated to be $10.9bn, was detained as part of 'anti-corruption purge' in 2017.

    Dozens of royal family members, ministers, and top businessmen were arrested following MBS's so-called 'anti-corruption' campaign [Al Jazeera]
    Dozens of royal family members, ministers, and top businessmen were arrested following MBS's so-called 'anti-corruption' campaign [Al Jazeera]

    Saudi Arabia has freed Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi, more than a year after the tycoon was detained under the kingdom's controversial anti-corruption campaign.

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed Amoudi's release on Twitter on Sunday, saying he had raised the issue with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBSduring a trip to Riyadh last May.

    A family office spokesman told Reuters that Amoudi had returned to his home in the western city of Jeddah.

    Amoudi was detained at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel in November 2017 along with dozens of princes, officials and businessmen after MBS launched his so-called "anti-corruption purge".

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    Allegations against those detained included money laundering, bribery, and extorting officials.

    The crackdown was in response to "exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money," a royal decree at the time said.

    Most were freed after reaching settlement deals with the government, including Saudi businessman and billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

    Downgraded by Forbes

    Amoudi's release follows that of several other businessmen last week and comes after the kingdom suffered a global backlash over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the reported torture of women activists.

    Amoudi, who was born in Ethiopia to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother, owns a broad portfolio of businesses in construction, energy, agriculture, mining, hotels, healthcare and manufacturing.

    According to a Forbes report last year, his net worth was estimated to be $10.9bn. Forbes downgraded his net worth earlier this month to $1.2bn "due to a lack of clarity about which assets he still owns".

    It is unclear how much, if any, of Amoudi's wealth he may have handed over to the state in exchange for his release.

    The Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said last January that the kingdom had seized more than $100bn in anti-corruption settlements.

    Experts have noted that the arrests were a way for MBS to consolidate economic, as well as political, power in Saudi Arabia.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies