One of the world's richest men is being asked to pay a staggering amount to secure his freedom, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal—who owns stakes in Twitter and other Western companies and has an estimated worth of $18.7 billion—was arrested as part of a sweeping roundup of royals, officials, and others in Saudi Arabia orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in November. The arrests are being characterized by the government as a crackdown on corruption, but most believe they are instead a consolidation of power by Prince Mohammed. A senior Saudi official says Prince al-Waleed faces allegations of bribery, money laundering, and extortion. Prince al-Waleed denies any wrongdoing, sources say.
Prince al-Waleed has spent the last few weeks at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, which has been turned into a prison. Sources say the Saudi government is demanding at least $6 billion from him to be released. Many of the arrested have already paid for their freedom—though $6 billion is one of the highest amounts being sought, sources say. Some close to Prince al-Waleed say he doesn't want to pay because it would be an admission of guilt and hurt his business. Instead, sources say he's trying to get the government to accept a large share of his company, which is valued at $8.7 billion or so. People close to Prince al-Waleed say his arrest was likely a shock to him, as he had been supportive of Prince Mohammed's plans for reform in Saudi Arabia. It's possible Prince Mohammed resented Prince al-Waleed for his international notoriety. Read the full WSJ report here. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)