Led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has come down heavily on the issue of corruption and detained a group of high-profile people. This has been received with mixed reviews by investors, some wary and others more positive of the outcome
The list of detainees includes billionaire investor Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, former finance minister Ibrahim Al Assaf, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was removed from his post as head of the National Guard, and prominent billionaire businessman Saleh Kamel and his sons.
Most of the arrests were made on late Saturday and the details of this sudden raid and detention have not been disclosed yet. However, the kingdom’s top council of clerics said it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption — basically extending religious backing to the high-level arrests.
Corruption a major problem
Of late, there were instances where Saudi nationals have complained against unchecked corruption in government and accused some people of misusing public funds.
“As a leader who is set to remain in power for decades, Mohammed bin Salman is remaking the kingdom in his own image and signaling a potentially significant move away from the consensual balancing of competing interests that characterized Saudi rule in the past,” AP quoted Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, Texas.
Ulrichsen said that the scale of the arrests is designed to further smooth the young crown prince’s eventual succession to the throne.
Saudi Arabia’s cracking on corrupt princes, ministers and businessmen had come close on the heels of the resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hariri had resigned on a television broadcast from Riyadh on Saturday.
Though so far no concrete statement has come from the White House but it should be noted Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner and few others had recently made an unexpected visit to Riyadh. However, earlier in the day on Saturday, Trump had urged King Salman to list the kingdom’s oil giant Saudi Aramco in the US.
The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel reported that the committee is looking into the horrendous floods that inundated various parts of the city of Jeddah in 2009. It is also probing the Saudi government’s response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that has killed thousands of people in the past few years.
According to sources, detainees are being held in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and the phone number for the hotel has been disconnected from Sunday morning.
What the decree says
According to the decree, “The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees fit, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies.”
“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,” it added.