The Richest Man in the Middle East Might Be Forced Pay $6 Billion for His Freedom

December 23, 2017, 11:19 PM UTC

Saudi Arabia’s richest man may exchange that title for his freedom. Last month Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal was one of dozens of government officials, businesspeople and royals arrested by the Saudi government in a sweeping corruption probe.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the allegations against Prince al-Waleed include bribery, money laundering, and extortion. The price that Saudi officials are demanding for his freedom: $6 billion, according to the Journal.

The 62-year-old Prince is currently living in a makeshift prison at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. He was an early investor in a number of western businesses including Twitter and Lyft, and currently has amassed a fortune estimated at more than $18 billion.

While handing over $6 billion certainly wouldn’t bankrupt the prince, he has reportedly said that doing so would be an admission of guilt, which he does not want to make, according to the Journal. He also would have to dismantle part of his financial empire.

Instead, he has offered to give the government a large piece of his conglomerate, Kingdom Holding Company, in exchange for his freedom. The company currently has a market value of $8.7 billion, down roughly 14% since the prince’s arrest.

A lawyer who has previously worked with the prince says that no formal charges have been filed against him, and there would be “no formal accusations” unless a settlement is not reached.