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. The arrests are part of a sweeping purported anti-corruption probe that further cements control in the hands of its young crown prince.
The arrests came shortly after a new anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was formed by a royal decree.
The crown prince warned earlier this year that anyone guilty of corruption would be punished. “No one is above the law whether it is a prince or a minister”, Prince Mohammed said in a television interview.
Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of the king and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding, invests in firms such as Citigroup and Twitter. He was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers detained, two senior officials told Reuters on Sunday.
The purge against the kingdom’s political and business elite also targeted the head of the National Guard Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf.
At 32, the crown prince is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies, stirring murmurs of discontent in the royal family that he has amassed too much personal power, and at a remarkably young age.
The royal decree said the arrests were in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money.”
On Sunday, Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, attorney-general, said the corruption suspects would retain full legal privileges relating to their property and funds during the investigation. “There is an independent judicial process underway, which will be fully respected,” he said.