Private jets grounded at Saudi airports as princes, tycoon arrested

by WorldTribune Staff, November 5, 2017

Dozens of Saudi princes, senior ministers and a prominent billionaire were arrested on Nov. 4 as part of what analysts said was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s move to consolidate power in the kingdom.

Billionaire business tycoon Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Salman, was among those arrested.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television reported that 11 princes, four current ministers and dozens of ex-ministers were arrested as part of an investigation by the crown prince’s newly-established anti-corruption commission.

An aviation source told AFP that security forces had grounded private jets at airports, possibly to prevent high-profile figures from leaving the country.

“The breadth and scale of the arrests appears to be unprecedented in modern Saudi history,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “The reported detention of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, if true, would send shock waves through the domestic and international business community.”

Al-Waleed, a nephew of King Salman and owner of investment firm Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, was among the princes arrested, a government source told AFP.

“With this (crackdown), the kingdom heralds a new era and policy of transparency, clarity and accountability,” Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan was quoted as saying by SPA.
“The decisive decisions will preserve the investment environment and boost trust in the rule of law.”

Separately, the head of the Saudi National Guard, once a leading contender to the throne, as well as the navy chief and the economy minister were replaced in the purge against the kingdom’s political and business elite.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was sacked as the head of the National Guard, an elite internal security force. His removal consolidates the crown prince’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions.

“The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen,” attorney general Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement, adding that a number of investigations had been initiated.

“A suspect’s position or status does not influence the firm and fair application of justice.”

Analysts said many of those detained were resistant to Prince Mohammed’s foreign policy overhaul that includes the boycott of Qatar as well as his privatizing state assets and cutting subsidies.

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