Saudi-Ethiopian Billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi Released from Detention

Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi was released more than a year after his arrest in what Saudi authorities said was a crackdown on corruption, becoming the latest detainee to be freed under mysterious circumstances.

Al Amoudi was released after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed raised his case during a visit to Saudi Arabia last year, the prime minister’s office said on Twitter. A Saudi official said in December that Al Amoudi was charged with corruption and would face trial in a Saudi court.

There was no official Saudi explanation of his release and it’s unclear whether he will be barred from leaving the kingdom, like some others who were freed.

Several other prominent detainees were released over the past few weeks, including Amr Al-Dabbagh — a businessman who was formerly chief of the Saudi investment authority — and Hani Khoja, a McKinsey & Co. partner who co-founded Elixir, a consultancy. Bakr Binladin, a Saudi billionaire who had headed the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, was briefly released to attend a family funeral but sent back to prison on Sunday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Al Amoudi was detained in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November 2017 along with dozens of princes, officials and businessmen as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared a campaign against corruption.

Critics denounced the purge as a power play and a shakedown, a charge the government denies. While most detainees were released last year, a few high-profile figures are still being held.

It’s unclear whether those sent home recently faced any charges or have gone through a settlement process; the government has not commented on or confirmed the releases.

Al Amoudi’s arrest was of particular interest to Ethiopia, where he owns vast assets. In May, after his visit to Saudi Arabia, Ahmed said that he had inquired after Al Amoudi and was sure he’d be freed soon.

Saudi authorities have also released two male associates of a group of prominent women’s rights activists who were arrested in May. Abdulaziz Al-Meshaal, a businessman and associate of the women, was released recently, according to people familiar with the matter, while lawyer Ibrahim Al-Modaimigh was released in December.

The kingdom and Prince Mohammed have come under unprecedented global pressure after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October.

Source: Bloomberg

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