Mon, Nov 06, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Billionaire prince, dozens more held in Saudi sweep

FIVE-STAR DETAINMENT:An official said 11 princes and 38 others are being held in five-star hotels in Riyadh. There has been no word on the actual probe


Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaks during a news conference in Jeddah on May 11.

Photo: AFP

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 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 that the royal — who is one of the world’s richest men — was among those detained overnight on Saturday.

The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of former Saudi king Abdullah’s sons, were hailed by pro-government media 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 decisionmaking 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 in five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh, although he spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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 bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the Saudi 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 Salman.

Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne.

“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 Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

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

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