|Prince Alwaleed bin Talal|
Does that mean Alwaleed is a dreadful human being because he is petty or because he is corrupt--or because he is both?
Let's consider the petty part first. In an article titled "The Richest People on the Planet 2013," Forbes has Alwaleed falling out of his usual place among the world's top 10. The prince, it seems, takes such lists seriously and was deeply offended to find himself ranked in a three-way tie for the 26th spot. From an article at moneynews.com:
Saudi Arabia richest man, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, claims he was short-changed in Forbes’ latest list of the world’s biggest billionaires, but the magazine is standing by its rankings in a nasty spat being played out in public.
Forbes said unnamed former employees of the prince told the magazine Alwaleed “systematically exaggerates his net worth by several billion dollars.”
In its article, Forbes said it couldn’t justify an estimate of Alwaleed’s wealth that would exceed $20 billion, a figure that drops him out of the coveted Top Ten list and places him at a more modest Number 28.
Alwaleed is so butt-hurt that he is threatening to take legal action--and one assumes he can afford a squadron of high-priced lawyers:
Alwaleed responded to the diminished Forbes ranking by getting lawyered up — a press release from the Private Office of His Royal Highness said the prince “has retained counsel,” and requested he be removed from the list altogether.
“Prince Alwaleed has taken this step as he felt he could no longer participate in a process which resulted in the use of incorrect data and seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions,” the palace press release stated.
Forbes writer Kerry Dolan, who covers the world’s wealthiest people for the magazine, said Alwaleed’s response is the culmination of “what is now a quarter-century of intermittent lobbying, cajoling and threatening when it comes to his net worth listing.”
The prince apparently is used to getting his way, and that brings us to the corruption portion of our story. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Alwaleed might have played a central role in launching a bogus prosecution against Don Siegelman. (Note: Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney, of Ohio, says in a new book that the Siegelman case was "a travesty of justice." Ney served six terms in the U.S. House before being implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal.)
Why would a Saudi billionaire care about what transpires at a federal courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama? Well, our sources still are connecting the dots, but it's important to keep in mind that Siegelman's co-defendant was Richard Scrushy, former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth corporation.
Here might be the single biggest dot in the tangled Siegelman/Scrushy story: In 2000, HealthSouth signed a deal to manage a 400-bed rehabilitation hospital near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi/HealthSouth story got lost in the larger scandal that engulfed Scrushy and other HealthSouth executives at the time, but the management deal left ill feelings in the Kingdom. A February 2004 article from accountingweb.com explains:
The Justice Department is now looking into whether HealthSouth officials offered bribes in an attempt to secure business in Saudi Arabia, which would be a violation of federal laws that prohibit such payments to secure business oversees.
Specifically, federal prosecutors are investigating a deal signed in 2000 by HealthSouth to manage a 400-bed rehabilitative hospital outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. HealthSouth, based out of Birmingham, AL, specializes in rehabilitative and surgical clinics and operates nearly 1,700 facilities, mostly in the U.S.
The Justice Department has been investigating fraud within the company that it puts at $2.7 billion, while the company’s own internal figures hover closer to $4.6 billion. Fifteen former executives have already pleaded guilty in the case, including five former chief financial officers. Founder and former chief executive Richard Scrushy has denied wrongdoing and will stand trial on 85 federal charges in August.
Scrushy, of course, was acquitted in the fraud trial, and our sources say that helped fuel Saudi rage about possible under-handed actions connected to the rehab hospital in Riyadh. From accountingweb.com:
The Wall Street Journal reported that HealthSouth issued a press release in 2000 announcing its agreement to manage the Saudi Arabian hospital. In the release, Scrushy said, "HealthSouth is proud to be part of this affiliation, the goal of which is to integrate the highest quality of rehabilitative health care into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with its strong cultural beliefs and traditions."
Now investigators are wondering if behind the scenes, kickbacks were offered to secure the deal. According to the Journal, the parties involved in the deal were not available for comment. However, Steven Miles, a lawyer close to the deal is cooperating with prosecutors looking into the matter. Miles is an expert in Saudi Arabian businesses at the Washington office of Baker Botts, the Journal reported.
What does all of this have to do with Don Siegelman, who currently resides at a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana, after being convicted of "crimes" that do not even exist in the U.S. code? We are still piecing together that part of the story. But Americans who care about the integrity of our justice system would be wise to learn more about a HealthSouth management deal that went sour in the Arabian desert.
(To be continued)