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.
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.