Authorities in Saudi Arabia are preparing to auction off billions of dollars worth of a detained businessman's assets.
The kingdom plans to sell off cars and real estate belonging to Maan al-Sanea and his company, sources confirmed to Reuters. The move comes as Saudi authorities aim to bring one of the nation's longest-running debt disputes to a final conclusion.
The sale comes amidst a crackdown in rampant corruption
Al Sanea was detained prior to the hundreds of other Saudi elites who were arrested in November, as leaders moved to crack down on rampant corruption. However, his case has been connected to the saga, which saw many of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest hand over significant sums to the government.
Moving to auction off the billionaire's assets demonstrates that the kingdom's anti-corruption committee is serious about its mandate to tackle widespread fraudulent behavior among businessmen, political leaders, and members of the royal family.
Back in 2007, Al Sanea was ranked by Forbes among the world's top 100 richest people. But the businessman was detained last year in connection with unpaid debts going back to 2009 from his company, Saad Group.
Some experts estimate the company's debt could total between 40 billion riyals ($10.67 billion) and 60 billion riyals ($15.9 billion,) according to Gulf News.
A video promoting the sale and a brochure have been circulating online, advertising the auction as "the sale everyone has been waiting for in Khobar".
Inside the brochure, 20 plots of land owned by Al Sanea and his company are listed, with the largest being a 484,407 square meter plot of land. A source told Reuters the real estate being sold is valued at around 4.4 billion riyals ($1.1 billion.)
It's unclear when the auction will take place, but one source at the Ministry of Justice said it would take place before Ramadan in May.
Saudi leaders are serious about ending corruption
The sale comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shown his strong commitment to clamp down on corruption throughout the kingdom.
Members of the royal family, former and current government leaders, and prominent businessmen were detained in the so-called "purge" that began late last year. Some prominent figures were released within weeks or months, agreeing to financial deals to settle the charges against them.
"Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements," the kingdom's attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said in December.
Some Saudi critics have painted the anti-corruption purge as a move by King Salman and the crown prince to consolidate power and support.
However, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pointed out in a November interview with The New York Times that many of the detainees had already voiced their support for the new leaders' vision.
"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 crown prince said.
"You have to send a signal, and the signal going forward now is, ‘You will not escape.’ And we are already seeing the impact."