Sim­mer­ing in Saudi Ara­bia!

The ar­rest of once un­touch­able mem­bers of the royal fam­ily is a sign that the present Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man is mov­ing to quash po­ten­tial ri­vals.

Alive - - Content - By Ma­haraaj K. Koul

It all be­gan on 4 Novem­ber 2017. As part of a sweep­ing anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign that fur­ther ce­mented con­trol in the hands of its young Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man (32), the Saudi Ara­bian au­thor­i­ties ar­rested dozens of royal princes, busi­ness­men, cab­i­net min­is­ters and top of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing a well-known royal bil­lion­aire-in­vestor with ex­ten­sive hold­ings in West­ern com­pa­nies.

A high-level em­ployee at Prince Al­waleed bin Talal’s King­dom Hold­ing Com­pany said that the royal — one of the world’s rich­est man, and said to be the rich­est man in Saudi Ara­bia — was among those de­tained. The prince holds, di­rectly and in­di­rectly, sub­stan­tial stakes in some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies.

The sur­prise ar­rests, which also re­port­edly in­clude two of the late King Ab­dul­lah’s sons, were hailed by pro-Gov­ern­ment me­dia out­lets as the great­est sign yet that Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad bin Sal­man is keep­ing his prom­ise to re­form the king­dom, long plagued by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els of the Gov­ern­ment.

Among those ar­rested are 11 princes, four min­is­ters and tens of for­mer min­is­ters. A num­ber of those ar­rested in­cluded in­di­vid­u­als with links to the im­me­di­ate fam­ily of the late Crown Prince and De­fence Min­is­ter Sul­tan bin Ab­du­laziz who died in 2011. How­ever, au­thor­i­ties re­jected re­ports that Prince Ab­du­laziz bin Fa­had, was ru­moured to have been killed in cus­tody while re­sist­ing ar­rest.

As anti-cor­rup­tion probe widened, shares in Al Tay­yar Trav­els plunged 10% in the open­ing min­utes of

trade after the com­pany quoted me­dia re­ports as say­ing Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tay­yar, a board mem­ber, had been held. The front page of Okaz, a leading Saudi news­pa­per, chal­lenged busi­ness­men on 6 Novem­ber to re­veal the sources of their as­sets, ask­ing: “Where did you get this?” in a bright-red head­line.

A top Saudi Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said on 9 Novem­ber that 208 peo­ple have been ques­tioned so far in the anti-cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Of these, seven have been re­leased with­out any charge. “We es­ti­mate that at least $100bil­lion have been stolen through graft and em­bez­zle­ment over sev­eral decades,” At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Sheikh Saud al-Mo­jeb said as the in­quiry ex­panded be­yond the king­dom’s borders. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion spread to the neigh­bour­ing UAE as the coun­try’s Cen­tral Bank asked com­mer­cial banks and fi­nance com­pa­nies there to pro­vide de­tails of the 19 Saudis, which in­clude Prince Al­waleed and for­mer Na­tional Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah.

An­a­lysts sug­gest that the ar­rest of once-un­touch­able mem­bers of the royal fam­ily is the lat­est sign that the young Crown Prince is mov­ing to quash po­ten­tial ri­vals or crit­ics. His swift rise to power has un­nerved more ex­pe­ri­enced, el­der mem­bers of the rul­ing Al Saud fam­ily. The royal fam­ily has long ruled by con­sen­sus, though ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­mains with the monarch.

Crown Prince

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