Saudi Arabia released Bakr bin Laden, the former president of the construction giant Bin Laden and half-brother of Osama, the former terrorist boss of Al Qaeda.
It had been more than three years after his arrest as part of a purge against prominent figures of the kingdom.
The former head of the Bin Laden Group, Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company, met his family last week in the Red Sea city of Jeddah after being released from an undisclosed place of detention, two said. people close to his family.
It was unclear whether the release of Bakr, a tycoon in his 70s who was once considered a major power broker, was tentative as his movements are still restricted, one of the sources said.
“He was released and told to stay home,” he said.
“People can visit it”
His family is “delighted ,” the second source said, adding that they hoped his release was not a temporary gesture of goodwill from the government towards the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan .
Bakr, half brother of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden , could not be reached for comment and Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.
The Bin Laden family, dubbed the Rockefellers of Saudi Arabia for their extensive infrastructure projects, reaped enormous wealth over decades thanks to their proximity to the Al Saud royal family.
But their fortunes collapsed following the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has sought to reform the oil-dependent economy and dismantle the sponsorship networks that enriched a handful of elite families.
Five Star Prison
Bakr and two other brothers, Saad and Saleh, were caught in a November 2017 purge that saw hundreds of royals, moguls, and government ministers locked up for months in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, then known as a five-star prison.
The unprecedented crackdown, which shook private investors just as the kingdom sought to attract capital to help diversify the economy, was described by the government as an anti-corruption measure.
But observers saw it as a crackdown and a power play on the part of Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler known by his acronym MBS.
Most of those detained, including Saad and Saleh, were later released following opaque financial “deals” with the government.
But both brothers were banned from traveling abroad and initially forced to wear electronic ankle bracelets to track their movements, family sources said.
The government took control of the management of the Bin Laden group , indebted, after acquiring the collective participation of 36.2 percent of the three brothers in the company, according to an official document seen by AFP .
Authorities also seized assets , including private jets and luxury cars , the sources said.
But despite handing over billions in assets and shares, Bakr was detained, and family sources said authorities temporarily released him once, in January 2019, so he could attend a family funeral.
He still owns “significant” assets outside the kingdom, and his associates are privy to damning secrets about payments to members of the royal family, one of the sources said.
Bakr was never tried despite his lengthy detention, the source added, and no specific charges have been made public against him.