Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal

Saudi Billionaire Prince Alwaleed has been asked to pay around $6 billion in order to secure his release, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal last week.

The businessman, head of Kingdom Holding Co., was detained along with hundreds of other prominent Saudis in a sweep corruption probe starting at the beginning of November. 

At least 23 of the high-level prisoners, who have been held in the luxurious Riyadh Ritz Carlton have since been released, according to media reports.

According to Bloomberg, Prince Alwaleed, 62, is the 57th richest man in the world with an estimated personal fortune of $18 billion, with a portfolio including investments in Citi Bank, Disney, Twitter and London’s Savoy hotel.

The prince's company, Kingdom Holding, is listed on Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange with a market value of $9 billion.

A source close to the prince says he plans to give Saudi authorities a difficult time in taking his money, The Telegraph reported.

"He wants a proper investigation. It is expected that Alwaleed will give [Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who ordered the corruption probe] a hard time," the source said.

Prince Alwaleed's fortune has suffered during his detention

Media reports have suggested that Prince Alwaleed's fortune and business empire have suffered significantly since his detention.

Kingdom Holding has lost nearly a fifth of its former worth and the billionaire's personal wealth has also plunged by billions. 

But the company's chief executive insists everything is fine. 

Talal Al Maiman said that Kingdom Holding maintains more than $12.5 billion under management globally and "enjoys a solid financial position underpinned by a prudent and conservative funding plan," according to RT.

The company has also said that Prince Alwaleed was already transitioning to a less hands-on role at the time of his detention. 

Unidentified Saudi bankers told Financial Times a different story earlier this month. Even some that have worked closely with the prince for years are completely unaware of his company's current situation and his fate. They've said that, in the prince's absence, major activity has been suspended at his firm.

Following the billionaire's detention, it was reported last month that he had sold his $1.5 billion stake in 21st Century Fox, the entertainment company controlled by Rupert Murdoch. Lebanese media also reported that the prince was selling the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel and Movenpick Hotel in Beirut.

Saudi Crown Prince stands firm on corruption

Although some pundits have suggested Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is attempting to consolidate power and wealth through the guise of a corruption probe, Prince Alwaleed's case reveals this assessment to be inaccurate.

The billionaire had readily voiced his support for the Crown Prince's vision for the kingdom and pledged his support before his arrest.

"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," Crown Prince MbS told The New York Times in November.

"You have to send a signal, and the signal going forward now is, ‘You will not escape.’ And we are already seeing the impact."