الجمعة 19-10-2018 18:56:58 م : 9 - صفر - 1440 هـ

Palestinian-Jordanian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia: Family

السبت 16 ديسمبر-كانون الأول 2017 الساعة 03 مساءً / 26 September Net
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Palestinian-Jordanian businessman and Arab Bank chairman Sabih al-Masri has been arrested in Saudi Arabia, his family and friends said on Saturday.

Multiple Arabic news reports had reported the news on Friday.

The well-connected billionaire was detained during a visit to Riyadh on Wednesday, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Rai AlYawm, Huffpost Arabic and other outlets reported.

Masri, who also holds Saudi citizenship, did not return to Amman to attend an Arab Bank board meeting on Wednesday evening. Sources close to him told London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi that he was arrested on his way to the airport in Riyadh.

Warned against travel
Confidants said Masri had been warned not to travel to Saudi Arabia after mass arrests last month of Saudi royals, ministers and businessmen in the biggest purge of the kingdom's affluent elite in its modern history. The push is seen by some critics as a power grab by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"He has been answering questions about his business and partners," said a source familiar with the matter who did not elaborate nor confirm he was held. Another family source said he was detained.

Masri, who originally comes from a prominent merchant family from Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, amassed a fortune from partnering with influential Saudis in a major catering business to supply troops during the US-led military operation to retake Kuwait from Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

Masri was elected chairman of Arab Bank in 2012 after the resignation of Abdel Hamid Shoman whose family had founded the bank in Jerusalem in 1930.

He is also the leading investor in the Palestinian territories with a large stake in Paltel, a public shareholding company, which is the largest private sector firm in the West Bank.

Masri's family ranks among the wealthiest of Palestinian families, with majority holdings in real estate, hotels and telecommunications firms set up in the territories after a self-rule agreement with Israel in 1993.

Investments in kingdom
He also has large investments in the Saudi kingdom.

The Jordanian billionaire made two phone calls after his supposed arrest, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported - one to top executives in the Arab Bank and another to a close associate.

Last month, Saudi Arabia was accused by Western diplomats of holding Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh against his will after pressuring him to resign. Hariri eventually returned to Lebanon and rescinded his resignation.

Masri, 80, enjoys warm ties with King Abdullah of Jordan.

Earlier this week, Middle East Eye reported that Saudi Arabia warned King Abdullah against attending a meeting for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul. On Wednesday, the OIC recognised East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Saudi was represented at the summit by a junior minister of Islamic affairs.

Jordanian mediators' attempts to reach out to Saudi authorities about Masri's detention were rebuffed because Masri is a Saudi citizen, Rai AlYawm newspaper reported.

Hind Khlaifat, the CEO of Arab social media startup Alocloud, stressed the impact of Masri's investments on the Jordanian economy.

"In Jordan, our economy depends on Sabih; don't let our economy be destroyed overnight. A message in a tweet for Mohammed bin Salman, with kind regards," she wrote on Twitter.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Jordan have commented on the reports of Masri's arrest.

Source: Middel East Eye

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