The spectacle of royal family members being arrested would add weight to claims of a crackdown on graft.
By Martin Chulov for The Guardian Newspaper,
Saudi Arabia’s leadership has pulled off its boldest move yet to consolidate power around its young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arresting 11 senior princes, one of the country’s richest men and scores of former ministers in what it billed as a corruption purge.
The move sidelined at least 20 senior figures, among them outspoken billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sending shockwaves through the ranks of the kingdom’s elites, who had long viewed senior royals as immune.
The scale and targets of Saturday’s purge – ordered by royal decree from King Salman – dwarfed anything seen in Riyadh in recent years, deliberately targeting figures deemed previously to be untouchables.
Figures close to the crown prince said the move aimed to reshape public behaviour in a kingdom where patronage networks often determine business deals and prominent families secure substantial cuts from lucrative contracts.
However, others in the Saudi capital described the move as a naked attempt to weed out dissent, and political rivals, as the ambitious heir to the throne continues to stamp his authority across most aspects of public life in Saudi Arabia. The move strengthens Prince Mohammed’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family.
Nearly six months into his tenure as crown prince, which will eventually see him succeed his father as monarch, Prince Mohammed has launched a dizzying series of reforms designed to transform the kingdom’s moribund economy and put the relationship between the state and its citizens on a new footing.
Corruption has been rampant in recent generations in Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed had vowed to make business dealings more transparent. The spectacle of royal family members being arrested would add weight to claims of a crackdown on graft. However, such is the manner in which business is done in the kingdom, there would be few senior figures not connected to contract deals that would be considered corrupt in many other parts of the world.
The attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said the newly mandated corruption commission had started multiple investigations. “The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen,” he said. “A suspect’s position or status does not influence the firm and fair application of justice. During the investigation, all parties retain full legal privileges relating to their personal and private property, including funds.”
The decree establishing the commission said: “The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable.”
The arrested officials are believed to be being housed in the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel, which two weeks ago held a high-profile investment summit under the auspices of Prince Mohammed. The convention centre next door was used to receive Donald Trump in May, when the US president travelled to Saudi Arabia to reset relations with his country’s long-term ally, which had deteriorated under the Obama administration, that had pivoted to Iran.
The Trump visit emboldened the kingdom, which has been locked in a decades-long tussle with Iran for power and influence across the region. Since then, a swath of economic policies have been launched, along with cultural reforms unprecedented in Saudi history. By mid next year, women are expected to be allowed to drive, to enter sports stadiums and travel abroad without the endorsement of their male guardians.
Prince Mohammed will oversee the corruption commission, adding to his already formidable list of responsibilities, including his role as defence minister and champion of the economic transformation, dubbed Vision 2030, that aims to revolutionise most aspects of Saudi life within 12 years.
Prince Mohammed told the Guardian last month that the kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years and pledged to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.
The kingdom’s top council of clerics tweeted that anti-corruption efforts were “as important as the fight against terrorism”, essentially giving religious backing to the crackdown. In September, Prince Mohammed authorised the detention of some of the country’s most powerful clerics, fearing they may not be loyal to his agenda and supportive of his boycott of Qatar, which Saudi leaders accuse of destablising the region.
Saturday’s moves on the home front followed a striking foreign policy stance earlier in the day that appeared to put the kingdom on a political collision course with Iran. Under Saudi pressure, the Lebanese prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, unexpectedly quit his job, citing Iranian interference across the Middle East.
Hariri made his statement in Riyadh after twice being summoned to the Saudi capital during the week. Source: The Guardian
The following is the list of Princes and officials arrested in Saudi Arabia for Corruption & Embezzlement:
1. Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal(Billionaire owner of The Kingdom Holding group 17.1B USD net worth)
Accused of money laundering.
2. Prince Mitaab Bin Abdullah (Former Minister of the National Guard)
Accused of making fake weapon purchases and landing contracts to his private companies.
3. Prince Turki Bin Abdullah (Former Governor of Riyadh(Capital))
Accused of using his influence to land Riyadh city train contracts to his personal companies.
4. Prince Turki Bin Nasser
Involved in fake weapons deals and “the black dove scandal”
5. Waleed Ibrahim (Owner of MBC Media Company 10.9B USD net worth)
Accusations of being involved with previous four and working as a mediator for the fake contracts.
6. Khaled Al-Tuwaijri (Former President of the Royal Court)
Accusations of using his influence to bribe and mediate government contracts to certain people in the name of the King.
7. Adel Faqih (former labor minster and current economy and planning Minister)
His involvement in Jeddah corruption case that lead to the death of 100 people in 2009 Jeddah floods.
8. Omer Dabbagh (Former president of the General Investment Authority)
Accusations of creating fake contracts and embezzling the budgets for all the economical city projects during King Abdullah era.
9. Saleh Kamel (Billionaire 2.2B USD net worth)
Involvement in the Jeddah corruption case and the 2009 Jeddah floods.
10. Saud Al-Tobaishi (Head (former) of Royal ceremonies and protocols)
Using his influence to embezzle money from the government in the Kings name.
11. Ibrahim Al-Assaf (Former Finance minister and current state minister)
Well this guy is the Minister of treasury you draw the dots
12. Bakr Bin Ladin (Owner of Bin Ladin Group)
Bribery and corruption.
13. Saud Al-Dawish (former CEO of Saudi Telecom Company)
Involved in the embezzlement case of $1.8 billion by double billing the entire country.
14. Khaled Al-Mulhem (former Director General at Saudi Arabian Airlines)
Involved in contract fraud and embezzlement. This just came to light…