Palestinian billionaire Masri back in Amman after release in Saudi Arabia: family source

Sabih Masri, right, Chairman of Arab Bank, enters Eastern District Court in Brooklyn to testify. Monday September 8, 2014 090814


Palestinian billionaire Sabih al-Masri, Jordan’s most influential businessman, returned to Amman on Tuesday, a family source said, after his release from detention in Saudi Arabia linked to a crackdown on the rich and powerful there.

Masri, chairman of Amman-based Arab Bank, Jordan’s largest lender, was detained last week hours before he was planning to leave after chairing meetings of Saudi companies he owns, sources said. “He is at his home now in Amman,” said the family source.

Masri, a Saudi citizen, said from his home in Riyadh on Sunday after his release that the Saudi authorities had accorded him “all respect”. Saudi officials have not commented on his detention.

Jordanian authorities privately said King Abdullah intervened to secure his release. Sources familiar with the case said he was questioned about his links to Saudi partners among ministers, officials and royals rounded up in last month’s anti-corruption crackdown.

A source familiar with the matter said Masri was freed after reaching a settlement to return an unspecified amount of money. There was no comment from the Masri family.

Masri’s detention unnerved business circles in Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. Masri’s multi-billion-dollar investments in hotels and banking in Jordan represent a cornerstone of the economy of the kingdom and he is by far the biggest investor in Palestinian areas.

A member of a prominent merchant family from Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Masri amassed a fortune by joining with influential Saudi royals in a catering business to supply troops during the US led military operation to retake Kuwait from Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.