Dozens of prominent Saudi figures are being held in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Many names are still secret, but the list is said to comprise at least 11 princes. It is part of an anti-corruption drive by the young Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia announced the arrest on Saturday night of the prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, plus at least 10 other princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers.
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.
He controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, owning or having owned major stakes in News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter and many other well-known companies. The prince also controls satellite television networks watched across the Arab world.
The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.
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 king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anti-corruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the 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.
The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, 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.
No one is granted entrance. No one in there likes to be called an accused.
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