Anti-corruption campaign in Saudi Arabia brings hope to businessmen

In this photo taken on Nov. 15, 2017, a general view shows the master control room at the LBC TV station in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 19 November 2017
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Anti-corruption campaign in Saudi Arabia brings hope to businessmen

ADMA: Lebanon-based businessmen who lost enterprises through dealings with members of Saudi Arabia’s business community are closely watching a new campaign led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman targeting officials, princes and tycoons in the Kingdom, hoping it will help them win back what they lost over the years.
Many in the Kingdom welcome efforts to fight rampant corruption and abuse of power, and many outside it hope the move will encourage people to invest in the Kingdom without fear.
Since the first week of November, some 201 people have been taken into custody by Saudi authorities in a sweep that investigators say has uncovered at least $100 billion in corruption.
The crackdown that began on Nov. 4 initially targeted 11 princes, 38 officials, military officers as well as business leaders. An estimated 1,700 individual bank accounts have been frozen.
Pierre Daher, who founded the first private TV station in Lebanon in 1985 and turned it into one of the top media outlets in the Arab world, has been locked in court cases with detained Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, since 2011. The prince, whose maternal grandfather Riad Solh was once Lebanon’s prime minister and also holds Lebanese citizenship, has investments that include Twitter, Apple, Citigroup and the Four Seasons hotel chain and was once a significant shareholder in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, but sold much of those shares in 2015.
Their court battles are over Lebanon’s leading LBC and the affiliated Production and Acquisition Co., widely known as PAC, which filed for liquidation in 2012. Some 400 PAC employees lost their jobs and are still waiting for Prince Alwaleed to compensate them.
Prince Alwaleed and Daher, now chairman and CEO of LBC, were once allies when the prince pumped money into LBC TV before the two split over several issues and Daher was removed from his job as head of PAC. Prince Alwaleed ended up taking over the LBC SAT and PAC while Daher took LBC.
Lebanese media outlets reported this month that two Beirut hotels owned by Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding are for sale. The Four Seasons and Movenpick Hotel are among Beirut’s most luxurious hotels and are located in two of the capital’s most posh neighborhoods.
“If the hotels are not in the person’s name, not in the name of the defendant himself in person, you cannot garnish them since they belong to a company,” said Paul Morcos, legal expert and founder and owner of Justicia Consulting Law firm in Beirut.
Attempts to reach a representative of Prince Alwaleed at Kingdom Holding were not immediately successful.
Another person who lost millions of dollars in the Kingdom as a result of alleged corruption is Lebanon-based US citizen Yahya Lotfi Khader who for more than 20 years ran petrochemical businesses along with his two partners in eastern Saudi Arabia.
The Syria-born, 57-year-old businessman said he left the Kingdom two years ago after he became the victim of interference by officials who worked in the office of a once powerful prince. Khader put forward documents that proves they have lost tens of millions of dollars in cases that he says were manipulated by powerful people in the Kingdom.
Khader said the first step by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to fight corruption and people in the Kingdom have been waiting for an “awakening against corruption.” Khader said “Saudi Arabia has all the capabilities to become one of the most important countries in the world if we can fight corruption and it will not be an easy mission but we are very optimistic about what happened.”
Khader has sent documents listing all the injustice they were subjected to in the Kingdom to the office of King Salman and crown prince hoping that it could help them return to the Kingdom and get back their money that are worth tens of millions of dollars.
“Today there is a new Saudi Arabia that is totally different from what it used to be but it is still early to judge it,” said Daher of LBC.


Rights and benefits of the Saudi ‘Green Card’

The Kingdom is continuing its development and reform plans within Vision 2030 to develop its economy and enhance the attractiveness of its investment environment. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2019
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Rights and benefits of the Saudi ‘Green Card’

  • New visa move will allow residents and expatriates to play a more active role in Saudi economy
  • Media reports suggest the "Privileged Iqama" could cost as much as SR800,000 for a long-term version or SR100,000 for the one-year version

JEDDAH: The Um Al-Qura newspaper, the official gazette of the Saudi government, has published new information concerning the laws and regulations of the Privileged Iqama, widely known as the Saudi “Green Card.” It also carried the conditions under which the Iqama can be canceled.
Following the announcement of the Saudi Cabinet’s approval of the Privileged Iqama residency permit, as previously reported by Arab News, the new information offers a further look at the Privileged Resident Permit (iqama) scheme.
The iqama was first proposed in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was approved by the Cabinet last week. It will for the first time allow foreign nationals to work and live in Saudi Arabia without a sponsor.
The scheme will enable expatriates to permanently reside, own property and invest in the Kingdom. An authorized draft of the new Privileged Iqama system offers a number of benefits to highly skilled expatriates and owners of capital funds that will not require a Saudi sponsor.
A special committee has been given 90 days to determine regulations governing the mechanisms of the scheme, such as fees for applicants, which have not been yet determined by the authorities.
Fahad bin Juma, vice chairman of the Shoura Council Financial Committee said that eligibility for the Saudi Green Card will be determined by a number of bodies headed by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, as reported by Al-Watan newspaper.
He also added that in order to be eligible, applicants must possess scientific or professional skills that are not abundantly available in the Kingdom, or they should be company owners who can invest in the country.
The holder of the Privileged Iqama will be deemed resident for the purpose of applying other statutory provisions, especially tax provisions, regardless of how much time he spends outside the Kingdom in the course of the year.
The applicant must be over 21 years of age, must have a valid passport, must not have a criminal record, and must provide a health report dated within 6 months of the application presenting proof that the applicant is free of infectious diseases. In the case of applications from within the Kingdom, the applicant must obtain a legal resident permit before applying.
The Privilege Iqama rights include possession of private means of transport and any other movable properties that an expat is allowed to acquire as per the Saudi law, employment in private sector establishments and transfer between them (this includes the beneficiary’s family members) except for occupations and jobs from which non-Saudi nationals are banned. The rights also include freedom to leave the Kingdom and return to it independently, use of the queues designated for Saudi nationals when entering and exiting the Kingdom through its ports, and doing business under the foreign investment system.
Under the system, two categories are provided to applicants, an extended iqama and temporary iqama subject to renewal.
Upon approval of the application, according to Article 5, the applicant must pay the fees specified by the designated authorities; the holder will be deemed resident for the purpose of applying other statutory requirements, especially the tax provisions, regardless of how much time he spends outside the Kingdom in the course of the year.
The Privileged Iqama does not entitle the holder to Saudi citizenship.
The holder of the Privileged Iqama, will enjoy several rights, including residence in Saudi Arabia with his family, the right to issue visitor’s visas for relatives as defined by the MOI regulations, the recruitment of domestic workers, the possession of property for residential, commercial and industrial purposes with the exclusion of Makkah, Madinah and border areas as per the regulations. The holder will also be able to utilize property in Makkah and Madinah for a period not exceeding 99 years.
The Ministries of Justice and Commerce and Investment shall establish the necessary mechanisms to ensure the beneficiary’s access to an instrument of utilization issued by the Notary Public. This right will be enforceable by transfer to others according to the rules set by the committee.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of Economy and Planning, Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, said that the Privilege Iqama law approved by the Saudi Cabinet confirms that the Kingdom is continuing its development and reform plans in accordance with Vision 2030 to develop its economy and enhance the attractiveness of its investment environment.
The Privilege Iqama aims to make residents and expatriates an active part of the Saudi economy, promote consumption growth by increasing quality purchasing power and economic activity in various sectors, establish more small and medium enterprises, and generate jobs for Saudi citizens.
The Privileged Iqama can be canceled if the holder did not comply with the obligations stipulated in Article 7 of the law, waivered his residency, and/or passed away or was no longer eligible.
Several matters could lead to the cancelation of the Iqama, such as providing false information in the application, a conviction for a crime punishable by imprisonment for a period exceeding 60 days and/or a fine exceeding SR100,000, or a judicial decision to deport the holder from the Kingdom.
The cancelation or termination of the Privilege Iqama does not entail the transfer of the rights and benefits, obtained in accordance with Article 2 of the law, to the holder’s family. However, if a family member met the conditions of this law and its regulations, he may apply for the Privileged Iqama.
In the event of the cancelation or termination of the holder’s Iqama or any of his family members, the Privilege Iqama Center will, in coordination with the designated authorities, consider and remedy any consequences that may result therefrom in accordance with the law and its regulations.