The power strug­gle be­hind Saudi night of the long knives

Ar­rests of princes and min­is­ters in cor­rup­tion purge aims to se­cure heir’s claim and start shift away from oil, writes Andy Critchlow

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business -

There is a sense of fear and hope in Saudi Ara­bia af­ter the ar­rests of dozens of princes and gov­ern­ment min­is­ters in an un­prece­dented cor­rup­tion crack­down. It is hoped that the purge, which has been de­scribed as a “night of the long knives”, will sweep away the old guard of roy­als ac­cused of crony­ism and blamed for drain­ing wealth from the world’s largest oil pro­ducer for gen­er­a­tions. But hand­ing a younger lead­er­ship free-rein to push through broader eco­nomic and so­cial re­forms also brings with it gi­ant risks in the tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive king­dom.

For the billionaire roy­als and once pow­er­ful tech­nocrats cur­rently be­ing held in the lux­u­ri­ous tem­po­rary prison of Riyadh’s Ritz Carl­ton ho­tel the fu­ture seems bleak de­spite the op­u­lence of their sur­round­ings. Ac­cord­ing to the Saudi At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice, more than 200 of­fi­cials were seized and ques­tioned last week­end. Those be­ing held in­clude mem­bers of the up­per ranks of the king­dom’s Al-saud no­bil­ity. Their bank ac­counts were frozen as the state moved quickly to be­gin claw­ing back bil­lions it al­leges has been si­phoned out of state cof­fers.

“The ev­i­dence of this wrong­do­ing is very strong and con­firms the orig­i­nal sus­pi­cions that led the Saudi Ara­bian au­thor­i­ties to be­gin the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into these sus­pects in the first place,” said Sheikh Saud Al-mo­jeb, the king­dom’s top pros­e­cu­tor. “The po­ten­tial scale of cor­rupt prac­tices that have been un­cov­ered is very large. Based on our in­ves­ti­ga­tions over the past three years, we es­ti­mate that at least $100bn (£75.6bn) has been mis­used through sys­tem­atic cor­rup­tion and em­bez­zle­ment over sev­eral decades.”

More ar­rests are ex­pected fol­low­ing the first phase of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and over­seas banks in the re­gion have

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