Two former French presidents have expressed concern to Saudi Arabia's crown prince that the arrest and detention of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has raised worries among foreign investors, according to French and Saudi government advisers. The messages from Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, France's two most recent previous presidents, highlight the business uncertainty caused by the arrest of hundreds of people in early November in what Saudi authorities said was an anti-corruption campaign.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman listened to both ex-presidents' views on Prince al-Waleed and told them that French-Saudi ties are important, the advisers said.
The Saudi government has demanded that Prince Alwaleed, Saudi Arabia's richest businessman, pay more than $6 billion to settle accusations of money laundering, bribery and extortion--allegations the prince is fighting, according to people close to him.
Some of the detained have been released after paying hefty settlements. The ex-presidents didn't ask the crown prince for Prince Alwaleed to be released, the advisers said but added their own voices to those of many others who are concerned that the Prince has, to all intents and purposes, "disappeared" from public life.
Prince Alwaleed, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be over $16 billion, is a large investor in France in addition to his other massive international business portfolio. The 63-year-old prince holds large stakes in the Paris-based Eurodisney, French hotels, banks and businesses and he helped broker a deal last year with France's sovereign-wealth fund to bring $400 million in investment to Saudi Arabia.
A person close to Mr. Hollande confirmed he phoned Prince Mohammed but declined to comment further. A person close to Mr. Sarkozy said he has "regular conversations" with Prince Mohammed and declined to comment further.
The appeals from Messrs. Hollande and Sarkozy came after French executives involved in partnerships with Prince Alwaleed complained about his arrest to the office of President Emmanuel Macron, the advisers said.
Mr. Macron, who succeeded Mr. Hollande as president in May, has not commented publicly on the Prince detention. "We have the same relationship with Alwaleed as any investor of this magnitude," said an aide to Mr. Macron, declining to comment further on what he called "Saudi domestic affairs."
Mr. Hollande told the Saudi crown prince in December that French businesses were concerned the...