Saudi Arabia has announced it will confiscate money and assets, running into $300billion held by dozens of top officials and businessmen detained in an anti-corruption crackdown.
The Saudi attorney-general said detailed questioning of detainees had already produced “a great deal of evidence”, but gave no more details.
Businessmen in detention include international investor Prince Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose wealth was estimated by Forbes magazine before the crackdown at $17 billion; Mohammad al-Amoudi at $10.4 billion, with construction, agriculture and energy companies in Sweden, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia; and finance and healthcare magnate Saleh Kamel at $2.3 billion.
A large amount of the funds are believed by financial sources to be held offshore in bank accounts, portfolio investments, corporate shareholdings and real estate. Many of the businessmen detained have private planes — one has a Boeing 747 airliner.
And a study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research estimated Saudis have stashed away wealth equivalent to over 55 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in foreign tax havens — an amount exceeding $300 billion.
The anti-corruption committee that detained princes, tycoons and ministers at the weekend has the power under a royal decree to take “whatever measures are deemed necessary” to seize companies, funds and other assets without waiting for the results of criminal investigations.
Riyadh has also set no timetable for its confiscations, although banking sources say more than 1,700 domestic bank accounts have already been frozen at the request of the central bank.