The Star Early Edition

Saudi crown prince tar­gets cor­rup­tion

Royal bil­lion­aire among dozens ar­rested

- Corruption · Middle East News · Politics · Crime · Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud · Riyadh · United States of America · Japan · Abdullah I of Jordan · Mohammad bin Salman · Salman of Saudi Arabia · Saudi Arabia · Marriott International · Saudi Arabia national football team · Abdullah Abdullah · Air National Guard · Twitter · Osama bin Laden · Yemen · Singapore · Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport · Jiddah · Rupert Murdoch · News Corporation · Citigroup · Moevenpick Hotels & Resorts · Khalid Al-Faisal · Kingdom Holding Company · Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa · Middle East Broadcasting Center · Binladen Group · Nanyang Technological University · Careem · Rotana Group · Mecca · Al Madinah

SAUDI Ara­bia has ar­rested dozens of princes, se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, busi­ness­men and top of­fi­cials – in­clud­ing a well-known royal bil­lion­aire with ex­ten­sive hold­ings in West­ern com­pa­nies – as part of a sweep­ing pur­ported anti-cor­rup­tion probe that fur­ther ce­ments con­trol in the hands of its young crown prince.

A high-level em­ployee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s King­dom Hold­ing Co said the royal, who is one of the world’s rich­est men, was among those de­tained overnight on Satur­day. The com­pany’s stock was down nearly 9% in trad­ing on the Saudi stock ex­change yesterday.

Re­ports sug­gested those de­tained were be­ing held at the Ritz Carl­ton in Riyadh, which only days ear­lier hosted a ma­jor in­vest­ment con­fer­ence with global busi­ness ti­tans from the US, Ja­pan and other coun­tries. A Saudi of­fi­cial said other fives­tar ho­tels across the cap­i­tal were also be­ing used to hold some of those ar­rested.

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 Mo­hammed bin Sal­man is keep­ing his prom­ise to re­form the coun­try, long been plagued by al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

An­a­lysts have sug­gested the ar­rest of once-un­touch­able mem­bers of the royal fam­ily is the lat­est sign that the 32-year-old crown prince is mov­ing to quash po­ten­tial ri­vals or crit­ics. The prince’s swift rise to power has un­nerved more ex­pe­ri­enced, el­der mem­bers of the rul­ing Al Saud fam­ily, which has long ruled by con­sen­sus, though ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­mains with the monarch.

The king named his son, the crown prince, as head of an anti-cor­rup­tion com­mit­tee es­tab­lished late on Satur­day, just hours be­fore its ar­rest of top of­fi­cials.

A Saudi gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial with close ties to se­cu­rity says 11 princes and 38 oth­ers are be­ing held. The of­fi­cial spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional said it was cur­rently eval­u­at­ing the sit­u­a­tion at the Ritz-Carl­ton in Riyadh. “As a mat­ter of guest pri­vacy, we do not dis­cuss the guests or groups with whom we do busi­ness or may be vis­i­tors of the ho­tel,” the state­ment added.

The scale of the ar­rests is un­prece­dented in Saudi Ara­bia, where se­nior roy­als and their busi­ness as­so­ci­ates were seen as op­er­at­ing above the law. Saudi na­tion­als have long com­plained of ram­pant cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment and of pub­lic funds be­ing squan­dered or mis­used by peo­ple in power.

Shortly be­fore the ar­rests, King Sal­man had ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the Na­tional Guard. The prince is re­port­edly among those de­tained in the sweep, as is his brother, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was once gover­nor of Riyadh. Both are sons of the late King Abdullah, who ruled be­fore his half-brother King Sal­man.

Prince Miteb was once con­sid­ered a con­tender for the throne.

Saudi Twit­ter ac­counts re­leased sev­eral other names of those ar­rested, such as: Al­walid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi busi­ness­man with ties to the royal fam­ily who runs the Ara­bic satel­lite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Ara­bian Gen­eral In­vest­ment Author­ity; Ibrahim Assaf, the former fi­nance min­is­ter; and Bakr Bin­ladin, head of the Saudi Bin­ladin Group, a ma­jor busi­ness con­glom­er­ate.

“The dis­missals and de­ten­tions sug­gest that Prince Mo­hammed rather than forg­ing al­liances is ex­tend­ing his iron grip to the rul­ing fam­ily, the mil­i­tary, and the na­tional guard to counter what ap­pears to be more wide­spread op­po­si­tion within the fam­ily as well as the mil­i­tary to his re­forms and the Yemen war,” said James M Dorsey, a Gulf spe­cial­ist and se­nior fel­low at Nanyang Tech­no­log­i­cal Univer­sity in Sin­ga­pore.

Saudi Ara­bia said it had in­ter­cepted a bal­lis­tic mis­sile fired from Yemen at Riyadh In­ter­na­tional Air­port, on the out­skirts of the cap­i­tal late on Satur­day. The crown prince, as de­fence min­is­ter, over­sees the stale­mated war against Yemen’s Iranian-al­lied rebels.

The Fi­nance Min­istry said the anti-cor­rup­tion probe “opens a new era of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity”, en­hances con­fi­dence in the rule of law and im­proves the king­dom’s in­vest­ment cli­mate.

It is not clear what Prince Alwaleed or oth­ers are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for.

The Saudi-owned Al-Ara­biya news chan­nel said the anti-cor­rup­tion probe was look­ing into the re­sponse to flood­ing in Jid­dah that killed around 120 peo­ple in 2009 and dev­as­tated the city again in 2011, as well as the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of a Corona virus out­break that has killed sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple in re­cent years.

Prince Alwaleed has many in­vest­ments in­clud­ing in Twit­ter, Ap­ple, Ru­pert Mur­doch’s News Corp, Cit­i­group, and the Four Sea­sons, Fair­mont and Moven­pick ho­tel chains. He is also an in­vestor in ride-shar­ing ser­vices Lyft and Ca­reem.

The prince, of­ten pic­tured on his 85.65m su­pery­acht in the Mediter­ranean, is among the most out­spo­ken Saudi roy­als and a long-time ad­vo­cate for women’s rights. He is also ma­jor­ity owner of the pop­u­lar Rotana Group of Ara­bic chan­nels.

There was no re­sponse from King­dom Hold­ing for com­ment as of yesterday af­ter­noon.

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.

A top royal court of­fi­cial, Badr al-Asaker, ap­peared to con­firm the ar­rests on Twit­ter yesterday, de­scrib­ing a “his­toric and black night against the cor­rupt”.

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.

Mean­while, Prince Miteb was re­placed by a lesser-known royal, Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, to head the Na­tional Guard – a pres­ti­gious force tasked with pro­tect­ing the royal fam­ily, im­por­tant holy sites in Mecca and Me­d­ina, and oil and gas sites.

Just three months ear­lier, Prince Mo­hammed bin Nayef was plucked from the line of suc­ces­sion and from his post as in­te­rior min­is­ter, over­see­ing in­ter­nal se­cu­rity. This laid the ground­work for the king’s son to claim the man­tle of crown prince. – AP

 ?? PIC­TURE: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY VIA AP ?? Saudi King Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz Al Saud, left, talks to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Com­man­der-in-Chief of the Emi­rates Armed Forces in Jid­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, in June. The king has sacked dozens of top...
PIC­TURE: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY VIA AP Saudi King Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz Al Saud, left, talks to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Com­man­der-in-Chief of the Emi­rates Armed Forces in Jid­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, in June. The king has sacked dozens of top...
 ?? PIC­TURE: AP ?? Saudi Ara­bia has ar­rested dozens of min­is­ters in­clud­ing, from left, Prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah and Prince Al­waleed bin Talal al-Saud in an anti-cor­rup­tion probe led by Prince Mohammed bin Sal­man, right.
PIC­TURE: AP Saudi Ara­bia has ar­rested dozens of min­is­ters in­clud­ing, from left, Prince Miteb bin Ab­dul­lah and Prince Al­waleed bin Talal al-Saud in an anti-cor­rup­tion probe led by Prince Mohammed bin Sal­man, right.
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