Saudis ar­rest 11 princes, dozens of ex-min­is­ters in shake-up

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

RIYADH,

Saudi Ara­bia (AP) — Saudi Ara­bia has re­port­edly ar­rested 11 princes and dozens of for­mer govern­ment min­is­ters as it an­nounces a new anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign, fur­ther ce­ment­ing King Sal­man and his crown prince son’s con­trol of the king­dom.

The ar­rests late Saturday, as well as the king’s re­moval of a prom­i­nent prince in charge of the Na­tional Guard, came as Le­banon’s prime minister, a close Saudi ally, an­nounced his own res­ig­na­tion from the Saudi cap­i­tal only hours ear­lier.

The moves fur­ther shake up Saudi Ara­bia and the greater Mid­dle East as re­gional con­flicts still rage around the king­dom. Shi­ite rebels in Ye­men, the tar­get of a 2 ½ year Saudi-led mil­i­tary cam­paign, fired a bal­lis­tic mis­sile to­ward Riyadh’s in­ter­na­tional air­port on Saturday night.

The Saudi-owned Al-Ara­biya satel­lite news chan­nel re­ported the ar­rests late Saturday of 11 princes and dozens of for­mer min­is­ters.

Al-Ara­biya re­ported that the anti-graft com­mit­tee is look­ing into deadly floods that over­whelmed parts of the city of Jid­dah in 2009 and the govern­ment’s re­sponse to the Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­tory Syn­drome (MERS) virus that has killed sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in the past few years.

The anti-cor­rup­tion ef­fort is be­ing headed by the king­dom’s pow­er­ful Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, who was named to over­see the new com­mit­tee.

Al-Ara­biya did not name those de­tained, though ru­mors cir­cu­lated into early Sun­day that they in­cluded some of the most pow­er­ful busi­ness­men in the coun­try. A Saudi govern­ment spokesman did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Re­ports also sug­gested those de­tained were be­ing held in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days ear­lier hosted a ma­jor in­vest­ment con­fer­ence. The phone num­ber for the ho­tel had been dis­con­nected by Sun­day morn­ing and a Dubai-based spokes­woman for the ho­tel chain did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Mean­while, the king­dom’s top coun­cil of cler­ics is­sued a state­ment say­ing it is an Is­lamic duty to fight cor­rup­tion— es­sen­tially giv­ing re­li­gious back­ing to the high-level ar­rests be­ing re­ported.

The govern­ment said the anti-cor­rup­tion com­mit­tee has the right to is­sue ar­rest war­rants, im­pose travel re­stric­tions and freeze bank ac­counts. It can also trace funds, pre­vent the trans­fer of funds or the liq­ui­da­tion of as­sets, and take other pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures un­til cases are re­ferred to the ju­di­ciary.

The royal or­der said the com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished “due to the propen­sity of some peo­ple for abuse, putting their per­sonal in­ter­est above public in­ter­est, and steal­ing public funds.”

Saudi na­tion­als have long com­plained of ram­pant cor­rup­tion in govern­ment and of public funds be­ing squan­dered or mis­used by peo­ple in power.

The 32-year-old crown prince has been seek­ing to at­tract greater in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ments and im­prove the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion as a place to do busi­ness. It’s part of a larger ef­fort to di­ver­sify the econ­omy away from depen­dence on oil rev­enue.

“The scale of the ar­rests goes be­yond the al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, and are de­signed to fur­ther smooth the even­tual suc­ces­sion,” said Kris­tian Coates Ul­rich­sen, a re­search fel­low at the James A. Baker III In­sti­tute for Public Pol­icy at Rice Univer­sity.

“As a leader who is set to re­main in power for decades, Mo­hammed bin Sal­man is remaking the king­dom in his own im­age and sig­nal­ing a po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant move away from the con­sen­sual bal­anc­ing of com­pet­ing in­ter­ests that char­ac­ter­ized Saudi rule in the past.”

The king also ousted one of the coun­try’s high­est-level roy­als from power, re­mov­ing Prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah as head of the Na­tional Guard. He was re­placed by Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, who had held a se­nior post with the guard.

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