All Arab princes and princesses are either corrupt or involve in some sort of indecent activities or both – the saying goes. They love to fly out of their kingdom to America or Europe so that they could freely indulge in alcohol, drugs and prostitutes. Sex and liquors are their best friends. There was even a case where a Saudi prince not only sexually assaults a maid, he also engaged in gay-sex.
Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a 32-year-old son of King Salman, was named as the successor to the throne of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the young prince has been busy plotting and exterminating his threats within the monarchy. The House of Saud has at least 15,000 princes or princesses in the ruling royal family in Saudi Arabia.
The staggering number of royal members naturally gives birth to backstabbing, and even beheadings among brothers inside the Saudi’s mega rich royal family. King Salman himself is worth at least US$17 billion. As the 25th son of founder King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, Salman is one of 36 surviving sons of the 45 male children and many daughters.
Heck, even King Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, had 22 wives. Over the period of time, his battalions of grandsons – now numbering to thousands – would inter-marry within the family dynasty to re-establish their lineage and status within the clan. The ruthless grab for power saw how King Faisal was assassinated by his nephew who was then beheaded.
Today’s Saudi cabinet is littered with the male heirs of King Ibn Saud. But the most powerful, and until recently the most ruthless man – Crown Prince Mohammed – is today’s the most feared prince of all. Earlier this year, he quickly overthrown his cousin Muhammad bin Nayef, placing him under house arrest, and took control over interior ministry himself.
In fact, almost all powers under the king are now concentrated in the hands of the crown prince, who is also the kingdom’s defence minister. Eager to show his power, Crown Prince Mohammed was the guy responsible to go to war with Yemen. Saudi is losing that war despite spending billions. He then went after Qatar, a move seen as a bully boy tactic against a neighbouring rival.
With Qatar’s refusal to surrender to Saudi, Crown Prince Mohammed has now gone back to the drawing board. As one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen, billionaire prince Alwaleed bin Talal is his latest casualty. Alwaleed was among 11 princes, 4 ministers and tens of former ministers detained on allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Behind closed doors, other princes have been mocking and laughing at the incompetent, inexperienced but power-hungry Crown Prince Mohammed. However, at the same time, they feared his brutality too, with discontent in the royal family bitching about the young prince possessing too much personal power – dominating the military, foreign, economic and social policies.
Prince Alwaleed, who had belittled Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election only to make a U-turn and suck up to Trump after his stunning victory, is being slapped with allegations of money laundering, bribery and extorting officials. Clearly, 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.
Alwaleed’s empire includes investment firm Kingdom Holding as well as major stakes in 21st Century Fox, Citigroup, Apple and Twitter. In 2015 he pledged to donate his fortune of US$32 billion to charity after his death. Now that he has been arrested, it’s unclear if the Saudi’s newly created anti-corruption committee would confiscate any of his assets instead.
The Saudi Information Ministry said the bank accounts of those arrested will be “frozen” and any assets related to the corruption cases will be registered as state property. Shares in Kingdom Holding, 95% of which is owned by Prince Al-Waleed, fell as much as 9.9% as the Saudi stock exchange opened Sunday after reports of his arrest.
Prince Alwaleed, 62, also has investments in Plaza Hotel, a New York landmark, as well as a sizable stake in the Four Seasons hotel chain. However, the U.S. financial and stock markets are not expected to be affected by the House of Saud’s crisis. The worst case scenario would be the end of Alwaleed’s game of chasing for the top spot on the Forbes richest man on planet Earth.
In what appears to be calculated and planned moves, major arrests were carried out a few hours after King Salman replaced the minister in charge of the Saudi National Guard – Prince Miteb bin Abdullah – who controlled the last of the three Saudi armed forces not yet considered to be under control of the crown prince. He was immediately replaced by Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin.
Prince Miteb, whose father was the late King Abdullah, is 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 riyals. But Prince Miteb’s biggest guilt, of course, was being the contender for the throne.
Meanwhile, Riyadh Governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah was detained on accusations of corruption in the Riyadh Metro project. Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih was replaced with his deputy, Mohammad al-Tuwaijri.Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan was also sacked as commander of Saudi Naval Forces and replaced by Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghifaili.
Former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a board member of national oil giant Saudi Aramco, was also detained, accused of embezzlement related to the expansion of Mecca’s Grand Mosque and taking advantage of his position and inside information to purchase lands. Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the big Saudi Binladin construction group, was also detained.
Apparently, King Salman decreed late on Saturday the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The new body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions, and seize assets. Hence, it’s not a coincidence that princes considered threats to the crown prince were removed so promptly.
The simple fact that the new anti-corruption committee had sprung into actionsjust hours upon established speaks volumes that the arrests were absolutely motivated by the crown prince’s hunger for power. The committee could not have had undertaken any investigation, let alone evidence gathering, therefore, it was just a tool set-up to purge the crown prince’s enemies.
Crown Prince Mohammed actually is running out of time. His father, King Salman, is ailing and could die or abdicate the throne anytime soon. That forces the prince to ruthlessly consolidate his power, so mush so that he is willing to destroy the check and balances put in place over the past few decades. He is essentially on his way to strengthen the “autocratic monarchy”.
But the arrest of Prince Alwaleed – dubbed the “Arabian Warren Buffett” – will definitely raise the question of future moderate Saudi princes. Although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tries to project himself as a moderate Saudi prince, in reality, Alwaleed had long raised his concerns over human rights and the region’s autocratic governments.
Still, many Saudis applaud the dramatic major arrests architected by Crown Prince Mohammed, as it’s a public knowledge that corruption and money laundering run deep among those lords of the House of Saud. Now, perhaps President Trump could laugh at what a “dopey Prince” Alwaleed was, a prince who “wants to control U.S. politicians with daddy’s money.”
– Finance Twitter