AP: Billionaire prince among dozens arrested in Saudi sweep
Saudi billionaire Prince AlWaleed bin Talal looks on during a news briefing in Manama, May 8, 2012. HAMAD I MOHAMMED / REUTERS
54 Comment Share Tweet Stumble Email
RIYADH, 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. told The Associated Press that the royal, who is one of the world’s richest men, was among those detained overnight Saturday. The company’s stock was down nearly 9 percent in trading on the Saudi stock exchange.
Reports recommended those detained were held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which are the major investment conferences of U.S., Japan and other countries. A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also 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 the royalty 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 Saturday, just hours before his 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 because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Marriott International said in a statement that it is currently evaluating the situation at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. “As a matter of guest privacy, we do not discuss the guests or groups of hotels,” the statement added.
The scale of the arrests is considered in Saudi Arabia, where senior royals and their business associates are seen as operating above the law. Saudi nationals have long complaint 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 the 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 Aladyid 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.
An earlier crackdown on perceived critics of the crown prince included clerics, writers, lesser-known princes and Saudi figures popular on social media.
“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 it seems to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war, “James M. Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said an analysis of the shake-up.
Saudi Arabia said late Yemen at Riyadh International Airport, on the outskirts of the capital. The crown prince, as defense 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