Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is under house arrest and is banned from leaving the country despite being freed at a cost of as much as $6 billion, a source close to the Saudi crown prince has told DailyMail.com.
Alwaleed was released from detention Saturday after he made an undisclosed financial settlement with the Saudi government after two months held captive. The figure has been reported to be as high as $6 billion.
The 63-year-old prince was arrested as part of a major anti-corruption clampdown in Saudi Arabia and held with dozens of other princes and billionaires in the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
His daughter celebrates his freedom on Monday by tweeting a photograph of him, although it is unclear if it is a new image.
A source close to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, told DailyMail.com Alwaleed is still being closely watched and not really free.
His release was merely a PR exercise to counter a BBC documentary which had caused embarrassment for the Gulf state last week.
Celebration: Prince Alwaleed bin Tala’s daughter Reem bint Al-Waleed tweeted on Monday: ‘You’ve lit up the world, you are my world.’ But it is unclear exactly when the photograph was taken
Interview: Alwaleed, once a garrulous media figure, was interviewed by Reuters on Saturday in the Ritz Carlton, where he sat at a desk he described as his ‘office’, decorated with a mug with his picture. He claimed a ‘misunderstanding’ had led to his arrest and that it had been resolved
Propaganda: Alwaleed gave a guided tour of his ‘suite’ in the Ritz Carlton, showing his kitchenette and vegan food and saying he had been well treated. But a source in the kingdom, who has knowledge of MBS’s thinking, said it was an attempt to undo damage from an earlier BBC report
Questions: Alwaleed spoke on camera to Reuters on Saturday. But a source said it was not the full story. ‘Don’t buy the c**p of Alwaleed being treated right,’ said the source.
The source added that Alwaleed – believed to be one of the richest man in the Middle East – will have little control over his firm Kingdom Holding Company in the future.
On Saturday Reuters released footage which showed Alwaleed being interviewed in a hotel suite in the Ritz Carlton, showing he was apparently being treated well.
The source said the footage was organized after Alwaleed’s ‘release’ to show he was being treated well – but was not the full story.
Alwaleed’s release has also led to the value of his Kingdom Holdings bouncing back to where it was before his arrest.
‘Don’t buy the c**p of Alwaleed being treated right,’ said the source.
‘They [the crown prince’s close advisers] panicked because the BBC has been slamming them hard.
‘This is done abruptly, last-minute, because now it’s very embarrassing for MBS after this BBC documentary.
‘Why does he need to be arrested and hung upside down to discuss things? Why don’t you just do it from your own palace?
‘This is a guy who lived in a 435 bedroom palace, and he’s now showing off a kitchenette in his suite that’s the size of one of his toilets. That’s what they’ve reduced him down to.’
The source confirmed reports that Alwaleed’s family said the prince arrived home on Saturday.
‘He’s going to be under house arrest, he’s not going to go anywhere. The plan was always to take all his money and then put him under house arrest, but they just had to expedite it because of the BBC asking questions,’ said the source.
MBS is said to have been angry over a BBC Newsnight documentary which revealed details of Alwaleed’s incarceration.
The report, which ran in the UK on Thursday, probed claims that detainees in Riyadh had been arrested as part of MBS’s ‘anti-corruption drive’ and ‘tortured’.
Canadian-based businessman Alan Bender, who was flown to Riyadh to help the Saudi regime construct a case against Alwaleed, told the program he spoke to the billionaire via a video conference.
But he appeared to be in a jail cell, not the luxury Ritz Carlton.
‘He was brought in through the teleconference and was sat down,’ Bender told Newsnight. ‘We were looking at each other face to face. He didn’t look comfortable. He was unshaven, he didn’t look in his best condition at all.
‘He looked tired, a lot of twitching. It looked more like a detention room or something related to a jail cell.
‘Even the sounds of the doors sliding back and forth, it didn’t sound like he was at the Ritz Carlton,’ said Bender.
Bender’s account backs previous reports from the kingdom that Alwaleed and others had been moved to an actual prison from the Ritz Carlton.
Newsnight reported that Bender and others were brought in to read a script of allegations to Alwaleed, to pressure the prince into handing over his assets to MBS.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrest of some of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest men and held them inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. They included Alwaleed, until it was revealed at the weekend that he had been freed
In charge: Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was said to have been spooked by a BBC report in which Alan Bender (right) spoke about how he felt Alwaleed was in a prison, not the Ritz Carlton
Imprisoned in luxury: This picture, obtained by DailyMail.com in the days after the round-up, shows how 11 princes and billionaires being held in the Riyadh Ritz Carton. They have now reportedly been moved to a real prison
New prison: This is the Al-Ha’ir prison where Alwaleed is now being held. It is also used to hold terror suspects
Bender said he was flown in by the Saudi leadership because he had worked closely with Alwaleed previously, representing Alwaleed’s alleged ‘secret wife’ in negotiations over a separation settlement.
The BBC said Saudi authorities did not respond to their requests for comment.
The source added that the crown prince’s tactics had been very successful.
They claim that upon Alwaleed’s arrest in November the crown prince seized more than $2bn of his assets held in Saudi Arabia, and that MBS is still in the process of taking control of Alwaleed’s foreign assets – including shares.
Alwaleed owns shares in Twitter, Lyft, Citigroup, and top hotels including the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York.
DailyMail.com revealed earlier this month that the Trump administration allegedly made a deal with the Saudi crown prince, allowing him to seize the other detained princes’ US assets as long as the assets remained inside the US.
‘I know for a fact all of his money is now under MBS’s control,’ said the source.
‘MBS slapped him around in front of the world, accused him of money laundering and extortion and leaked all his scandals.’
Alwaleed is likely for now to stay in his role as chairman of his multi-million dollar firm, Kingdom Holding Company, but the source added that behind the scenes MBS would be controlling the company and reaping its profits.
‘The only thing Alwaleed requested was that he would be allowed to still work at Kingdom Holding, even though behind the scenes MBS took over,’ said the source.
‘Will MBS grant him that? We’ll see. He’s not going to let him travel, that’s for sure. MBS will keep a very close eye on him.’