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Saudi Arabia arrests 11 princes, including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal in corruption crackdown

saudi prince arrested

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has detained 11 princes, four current ministers and dozens of former ministers as part of its anti-corruption campaign, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported on Sunday.

Arabiya said 11 princes and dozens of former ministers had been detained through a new anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which was formed by royal decree on Saturday. The suspects were not named.

However, according to CNBC, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent member of the country’s royal family and a wealthy investor, has been swept up among others.

Talal controls the investment firm Kingdom Holding and is one of the world’s richest men, with 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.

In addition to Bin Talal, former Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf was also detained and under investigation, Reuters reported, citing a senior Saudi official.

Saudi King Salman issued a royal order on Saturday, appointing two new ministers to key security and economic posts, and removing one of the royal family’s most prominent members as head of the National Guard and boosting the kingdom’s young crown prince.

The king also announced the creation of a new anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which Al Arabiya TV said had already detained 11 princes, four current ministers and dozens of former ministers.

The cabinet reshuffle saw Prince Miteb bin Abdullah replaced as minister of the National Guard by Khaled bin Ayyaf, while Economy Minister Adel Fakieh was removed in favor of his deputy Mohammed al-Tuwaijri, according to a royal decree carried by state-run media.

Prince Miteb, the preferred son of the late King Abdullah, was once thought to be a leading contender for the throne before the unexpected rise of Prince Mohammed two years ago.

He had inherited control of the National Guard, an elite internal security force built out of traditional tribal units, from his father, who ran it for five decades.

Prince Miteb was the last remaining member of Abdullah’s branch of the family to hold a position in the upper echelons of the Saudi power structure.

The move consolidates Crown Prince Mohammed’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family.

Prince Mohammed, the king’s 32-year-old son, already serves as defense minister and was named heir to the throne in a June reshuffle that sidelined his older cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who had also served as interior minister.

He has been responsible at the same time for running Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy with global implications and behind the plans for the kingdom to build a future after oil.

Prince Mohammed, who has pledged to go after graft at the highest levels, will now also head up the new anti-corruption body, which was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and freeze assets.

“The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said.

NEW ECONOMY MINISTER

Reuters adds: The country’s new economy minister, Tuwaijri, is a former Saudi air force pilot and former chief executive of HSBC’s Middle East operations who has led the economy ministry’s program to privatize some $200 billion of government assets.

He replaces Fakieh, who served as the point man for the kingdom’s wide-ranging economic reforms since his appointment as economy and planning minister in 2015.

A former food executive with a reputation for pushing through politically sensitive reforms, Fakieh had previously served as labor minister, health minister and mayor of Jeddah.

Fakieh faced down fierce opposition from the business community as labor minister when he established quotas for foreign workers to boost jobs for Saudis.

Under Prince Mohammed, Fakieh led the development of a national transformation plan and privatization drive launched last year to end the kingdom’s vulnerability to an unpredictable oil market. His replacement comes as the kingdom makes adjustments to that plan, a process dubbed NTP 2.0.

The royal decree did not say whether Fakieh would hold any other government position. Former ministers often serve in advisory roles after leaving their posts.

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