Future Saudi King Tightens Grip On Power
Saudi Arabia’s future king has tightened his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers and investors including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen.
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, three 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.
News of the purge came soon after King Salman decreed late on Saturday the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his 32-year-old favorite son who has amassed power since rising from obscurity three years ago.
The new body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and seize assets.
“The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said.
Analysts said the arrests were another pre-emptive measure by the crown prince to remove powerful figures as he exerts control over the world’s leading oil exporter.
The roundup recalls the palace coup in June through which he ousted his elder cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as heir to the throne and interior minister.
In September, the king announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted, while Prince Mohammed is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists.
The crown prince has also slashed state spending in some areas and plans a big sale of state assets, including floating part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco [IPO-ARMO.SE] on international markets.