The Malta Independent 21 January 2018, Sunday

New Maltese citizen among those detained in Saudi corruption crackdown

Sunday, 31 December 2017, 09:30 Last update: about 20 days ago

The Saudi media mogul Waleed Al Ibrahim, who was detained last month in a corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia, is amongst those listed as having acquired a Maltese passport last year, and is therefore now a Maltese citizen, according to a list published in the Government Gazette this week.

On 4 November, authorities in Saudi Arabia arrested over 200 Saudi royals, senior government officials and businessmen in an investigation into corruption that is being overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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Waleed Al Ibrahim is one of the people listed on the list of over 2,000 individuals who were naturalised/registered as citizens of Malta between January and December 2016.

Registered as a Maltese national in 2016, Al Ibrahim would have gained his citizenship prior to the corruption crackdown.

The arrest orders came about just hours after Prince Mohammed was appointed as the head of a new anti-corruption committee. According to media reports by Associated Press, the sweep has uncovered at least US$100 billion in corruption based on investigations undertaken over the past three years. Waleed Al Ibrahim was amongst those detained.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia are asking for cash and assets in return for their freedom and, following this, some of those arrested have been released. However, this newspaper does not yet know whether Al-Ibrahim remains detained. Questions that have been sent to the Saudi Arabian embassy in this regard remain unanswered.

Waleed Al Ibrahim, a billionaire, is the founder of Middle East Broadcasting Centre, which owns satellite television channel Al Arabiya. He has received an honour and awards for his work in the media.

Names found on the list of new Maltese citizens could also have a link with those of relatives of Waleed Al Ibrahim, and could differ slightly due to translation errors. The list includes the names Khaled Albrahim, and Ibrahim Majid Alibrahim. Waleed Al Ibrahim’s brother is named Khalid Al Ibrahim, while Ibrahim Al Ibrahim could possibly be Waleed Al Ibrahim’s father.

Saudi critics and experts have hailed the series of arrests as a bold and risky move by the Crown Prince. In the purge, about 1,700 individual bank accounts have been frozen. 

According to the Associated Press news agency, “Saudis have complained for years of rampant corruption and the misuse of public funds by top officials in a system where nepotism is also widespread.”

Another person who was registered as a Maltese citizen in 2016, Nazim Asadul Haque, also had his name listed in the Panama Papers.

Raeesah Khan, the name of the daughter of Singaporean entrepreneur, and that of Russian businessman Vladimir Semenikhin are also listed as new Maltese citizens in 2016.

The names of the individuals who bought Maltese passports in 2016 are listed together with those who became citizens of Malta through normal channels in the same year. There is no indication as to those who purchased citizenship through the Individual Investment Programme as opposed to those who became citizens through naturalisation.

It is important to note that the list of new citizens provided by the government is comprised of limited data, consisting solely of the names of new citizens, alphabetised by their first names – thus increasing the chance of error. However, apart from having the same names, the affluent backgrounds of the individuals mentioned above fit the monetary criteria needed to purchase a passport, which costs €650,000. That price is in addition to the need to invest €150,000 in government bonds, purchase property for at least €350,000 or rent a property for at least €16,000 a year.

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