JEDDAH — Construction of the world’s tallest skyscraper in Jeddah is going ahead, the head of the consortium behind the $1.5 billion project said, despite the detention of some businessmen backing the plan in Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on corruption.
His comments were a sign that the government is trying to prevent the purge from disrupting major economic development schemes, even as authorities seize billions of dollars of assets from detainees in settlements of allegations against them.
“We have faced delays,” Mounib Hammoud, chief executive of Jeddah Economic Co (JEC), said in an interview. “In projects of this magnitude you always have delays — I hope we’ll recover the delays we’ve had. We will be open for business by 2020, hopefully.”
JEC is owned by Saudi investors, including Kingdom Holding Co, which has a 33 percent stake, and construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, which has 16.6 percent and is the project’s main contractor. Both those companies were affected by the corruption purge.
Kingdom’s owner, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was detained for nearly three months before being freed in January. He insisted publicly he was innocent of any wrongdoing, but Saudi officials said he agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement after admitting to unspecified “violations.”
Binladin chairman Bakr Bin Laden and some family members were also detained and the firm said last month that part of their shareholdings in it might be transferred to the state in a settlement. Most or all of the men have now been released.
Hammoud said there had been no changes in ownership of the JEC, however.
The Jeddah Tower, featuring residential and hotel space as well as shopping facilities, is projected to be over 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) tall, eclipsing Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which is currently the world’s tallest building at over 828 meters.
Construction has reached the 63rd floor so far.