The majority of those detained in a sweeping anti-corruption purge in Saudi Arabia have agreed to financial settlements, according to the kingdom's attorney general Saud al-Mojeb.
"Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements," al-Mojeb said on Monday, according to media reports.
al-Mojeb explained that the number of those targeted in the probe had reached 320 people so far, with 159 currently still in detention. The accounts of 376 individuals – belonging to the detained or others linked to corruption allegations – remain frozen.
Prominent Saudis, including members of the royal family, current and former government officials and leading businessmen, were arrested last month and held at Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel as their cases were being investigated.
Following the initial arrests, al-Mojeb said that just over 200 had been detained and that the amount of "misappropriated and unused public funds may exceed $100 billion." Yesterday, al-Mojeb explained that more had been detained as new information came to light.
“No detainee will be pressured in any shape or form,” al-Mojeb confirmed, according to Arab News. "Each detainee has the right to refuse to settle at any time before the settlement agreement is signed."
The update from al-Mojeb comes about a week after Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was once seen as a leading contender for the kingdom's royal throne, was freed after paying a massive settlement reportedly exceeding $1 billion.
Media reports suggested last month that those detained in the probe were being asked to "pay for their freedom." According to Financial Times, the Saudi government has demanded up to 70 percent of the detained individuals' personal wealth.
"Most princes arrested will certainly try to buy their way out, and we will see more of them doing just that to avoid jail time," Raihan Ismail, an associate lecturer at the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, told Bloomberg.
While some have raised concerns about negative financial ripple effects, as so many prominent wealthy investors and business leader remain detained, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who initiated the purge, has dismissed such worries.
"We have experts making sure no businesses are bankrupted in the process," Prince Mohammed told The New York Times.
“Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom," the prince explained.
"You have to send a signal, and the signal going forward now is, ‘You will not escape.’ And we are already seeing the impact."
The crown prince has also said claims dubbing the anti-corruption probe a cover for power consolidation are "ludicrous," pointing out that many of those targeted had already pledged their support to him.