About 200 Saudi princes, ministers, senior military officers and wealthy businessmen are still being held in 5-star prison Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. But soon, they could walk out free again, despite allegations of corruption and money laundering. The fact that they weren’t officially charged till today suggests that the Saudi government wasn’t interested in their despicable crimes at all.
What the Saudi King Salman, and his 32-year-old son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wanted from the beginning is the easy way out to replenish the kingdom coffers. They want their money – either legally or illegally obtained – so that when the ailing king steps down, the young King Mohammed will not inherit a financial-problematic kingdom.
Make no mistake about the whole drama. There will be no jail for royals.There’s no way that Crown Prince Mohammed can be seen by other branches of the House of Saud as the ruthless and brutal prince who imprisons fellow princes along with common criminals. Even when push comes to shove, the palace will become the prison for the corrupt princes.
Based on a source obtained by DailyMail, the 81-year-old King Salman could be stepping down – as soon as next week, paving the final step for his son to take over the throne to become the youngest and most powerful king in the Middle East. Crown Prince Mohammed is already the youngest minister of defence in the world.
It was reported that after his retirement, King Salman will play the role as a ceremonial figurehead, similar to the Queen of England or the Agong (King) of Malaysia. He will be reduced to only the “Custodian of the Holy Shrines”. Under the pretext of wiping corruption, the crown prince successfully intimidated a dozen princes into submission.
The game is ending as there’s little choice for the rich but powerless princes, ministers, senior military officers and wealthy businessmen currently being detained on allegations of corruption, extortion and money laundering. Crown Prince Mohammed’s offer to them is simple – “Give me 70% of your wealth, and you can walk out a free man”.
According to Financial Times, the opportunity to pay for their freedom is on the table after at least 1,700 bank accounts belonging to the Saudi elite have been frozen since the purging operation ordered by King Salman and his crown prince. The Saudi government aims to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as US$800 billion (£610 billion; RM3.38 trillion).
Assuming the 200 princes and elite agree to the settlement offers, the kingdom’s depleted coffers could be suddenly filled with hundreds of billions of dollars.Even at 70% of US$800 billion dirty money, the new King Mohammed would be flushed with US$560 billion to proceed with whatever ambitious projects – or war – that he wants.
Last year alone, Saudi Arabia recorded a budget deficit of US$79 billion and the stubbornly low oil prices have pushed the country into a recession. Their foreign exchange reserves fell to US$487 billion in July, a significant drop of 34.5% down from US$744 billion in September 2014. The kingdom’s breakeven oil price is US$73.10 – according to IMF’s latest analysis.
Saudi Arabia Attorney General claimed he is investigating allegations involving sums of at least US$100 billion, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg.Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, easily the richest among the princes detained, is still worth US$17.6 billion (Bloomberg) alone even after being imprisoned in the 5-star prison. And we’re talking about only clean or legitimate wealth.
Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was removed as head of the powerful National Guard, was accused of embezzlement, hiring ghost employees and awarding contracts to his own companies, including a US$10 billion deal for walkie-talkies and bulletproof military gear worth billions of Saudi royals. On average, it appears each of the princes detained possess close to double-digit of billions of dollars.
The first phase of arrest which saw 11 princes scooped by Saudi authorities have already netted King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed a fortune ofUS$73 billion. Waleed al-Ibrahim, the founder of Middle East Broadcasting Centre, which owns the Saudi satellite television channel Al Arabiya and worth US$10.9 billion (2016) is one of those wealthy businessmen being held.
Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin construction group and the half-brother of infamous terrorist Osama bin Laden, was one of the unfortunate VVIPs targeted by Crown Prince Mohammed’s purging crackdown. The Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) had revenues of US$30 billion and US$2 billion profit in 2012 alone.
Saleh Abdullah Kamel, founder and chairman of Jeddah-based conglomerate Dallah Albaraka Group, has a net worth of more than US$3.7 billion. His Bahrain-based Albaraka Banking Group has US$23.4 billion in assets as of end of 2016. Mohammed Al Amoudi, an Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian businessman, worth US$10.3 billion (Forbes) today is another businessman being held.
Another businessman – Nasser Al Tayyar – who made his fortune in the tourism industry has a personal fortune of US$600 million (Bloomberg). Heck, even Ibrahim al-Assaf, the former finance minister and state minister of Saudi Arabia, has accumulated US$390 million. If half of the 200 elite are businessmen with net worth of US$200 million, that’s a whopping US$20 billion potential for confiscation.
However, giving up 70% of their cash and assets in exchange for freedom isn’t the only condition set on the offering letters. Settlements for royals are likely to also include pledges of loyalty to Crown Prince Mohammed. Between Ritz-Carlton hotel and home, many of the pampered princes are reportedly keen to sign on the dots and go home.
But what does the ambitious Saudi crown prince plans to do with the money confiscated, aside from replenishing the kingdom’s coffers? Once crowned, the young king is speculated to flex his muscle by going to a war with Iran. His first war could be getting help from Israel to crush Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia backed by Iran.
With new funding – hundreds of billions of dollars – from the 200 princes and VVIPs, King Mohammed could pay Israel billions of dollars to do the heavy lifting of fighting Saudi’s real enemy – Iran and its minions. That’s the reason why he secretly made a visit to Israel, supposedly Islam’s enemy but a fake perceptiondrummed up by Saudi Arabia itself.