JEDDAH: Eleven princes including prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, four sitting ministers and ‘tens’ of former ministers have been arrested on orders from the new anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday night.
The announcement of the arrests was made over Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned satellite network whose broadcasts are officially approved. Prince Alwaleed’s arrest is sure to send shock waves both through the Kingdom and the world’s major financial centers.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, owning or having owned major stakes in Citigroup, Twitter, 21st Century Fox and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world. Time magazine has called him the “Arabian Warren Buffett”.
These arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power for 32 year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is already the dominant voice in Saudi military, foreign, economic and social policies.
Hours after the formation of powerful new anti-corruption committee headed by the Crown Prince through a Royal decree, committee has ordered the arrests.
The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests.
Al Arabiya said that the anticorruption committee has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.
“It may take whatever measures deemed necessary to deal with those involved in public corruption cases and take what it considers to be the right of persons, entities, funds, fixed and movable assets, at home and abroad, return funds to the state treasury and register property and assets in the name of state property.”