Middle East

Jordanian billionaire feared detained in Saudi Arabia: Media reports

Palestinian-Jordanian businessman and Arab Bank Chairman Sabih al Masri has reportedly been arrested in Saudi Arabia, according to multiple Arabic news reports.

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 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.

According to the paper's sources, Masri was warned by people close to him against travelling to Saudi Arabia, but he reportedly told them he had nothing to fear there.

It was his first visit to Riyadh since the kingdom begn what it calls an anti-corruption purge that has landed dozens of powerful princes and businessmen in jail. The push is seen by some critics as a power grab by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Masri has large investments in the kingdom.

The Jordanian billionaire made two phone calls after his supposed arrest, the London-based newspaper 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 Hariri eventually returned to Lebanon and rescinded his resignation.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.

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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 reports of Masri’s arrest.

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