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Al Waleed: Wait for end of Khashoggi probe

Manama: Saudi business tycoon and member of the royal family Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal said the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a horrific and despicable act, but insisted it was not upon the orders of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

“Jamal wasn’t only my friend. He was working with me. Actually, his last job in Saudi Arabia was with me and with the Arab TV channel. What took place in the Saudi Consulate [in Istanbul] was clearly horrific, despicable, unspeakable and tragic,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

“Implying that the orders were given by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman directly is a false statement. Saudi Arabia acknowledged publicly that a murder did take place in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. Saudi Arabia did acknowledge also that whenever there was opposition to Saudi Arabia by any human being outside Saudi Arabia, the standing order was to engage with them, talk to them, and try to convince them to come to Saudi Arabia.

“So I think some people in the intelligence [agency] did follow these orders and sent a group of people to Turkey to engage with Jamal Khashoggi. Clearly, something went wrong over there, whereby he was murdered.

“So, please let us not anticipate what’s going to happen in the investigation that Saudi Arabia is undertaking right now … I ask Saudi Arabia now, publicly that the investigation be made public as soon as possible [through which] I believe the Saudi crown prince will be 100 per cent vindicated and exonerated.”

Al Waleed referred to the Abu Ghraib incident, saying that thousands of Iraqis were tortured, raped, molested, pictured and videotaped. “At that time, many of the Western media went back to George W. Bush, the president then, and Mr. [Donald] Rumsfeld, the defence secretary then, and tried to get the blame on them. However, after a few months of investigation, they were exonerated,” he told the US TV channel.

“I believe Saudi Arabia is going to get to the bottom of it, but, please, you have to give us some time until the investigation is done and made public by the government of Saudi Arabia.”

Al Waleed disputed allegations that there was more than one side to Crown Prince Mohammad.

“I assure you that he is for real. He is changing Saudi Arabia in a very revolutionary manner, socially, economically and financially. Saudi Arabia right now is witnessing huge development and changes.”

Pressed to talk about his detention a year ago, Al Waleed said the incident was important. “Many of those detainees deserved to be there, because Saudi Arabia did have a lot of corruption. Thank God that, after this incident, many of those who were detained had a big cleaning process,” he said.

“As for me, I did say that there was a misunderstanding. I’m out now and [there are] no problems at all. What happened was forgiven and forgotten. So, that’s behind us. We are on excellent terms with the crown prince, with the king and Saudi Arabia.”

He denied reports he had been tortured during his detention or ordered to give up his fortune to the Saudi government.

“[This is an example of how] the media goes beyond its limits and [utters] all these lies, innuendoes and rumours. I was watching all the programmes on TV while I was in the so-called detention. When I heard that a team in the United States came to torture me and my feet were up and my head was down, and I went to a high-security prison. All these were lies, not true, false statement completely.

“And I heard also the rumours that all my wealth was taken. My wealth is completely as it is, intact. Just look at Saudi stock market, the Tadawul, and you see I still own 95 per cent of Kingdom Holding, 100 per cent, complete control of Rotana of almost 98 per cent.”

Al Waleed rejected concerns about the future of the Saudi-US relations.

“Saudi Arabia is a vehicle of tranquillity, stability and integrity in this region. Look at our vicinity. Look at Yemen. Look at Iraq. Look at Syria. Look at Iran. They’re all turbulent. Saudi Arabia is the vehicle of stability in this region. Our alliance [has been] since 1945 when our king Abdul Aziz met President Roosevelt. It is well-established. It is going to [remain] intact, and it’s going to [last] for a long time.”

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