A committee in Saudi Arabia has detained almost a dozen princes, along with four sitting ministers as part of a recent campaign to combat the country’s problem with corruption.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud established the newly formed anti-corruption committee as part of an “active reform agenda aimed at tackling a persistent problem that has hindered development efforts in the Kingdom in recent decades,” according to a press release from the Saudi Ministry of Communications.
The committee was needed “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds” and will “trace and combat corruption at all levels,” according to the royal decree.
The committee, which is being led by the King’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, is sanctioned to investigate and arrest those individuals discovered to be involved in corrupt activities.
“The arrest of senior princes upends a longstanding tradition among the ruling Al Saud family to keep their disagreements private in an effort to show strength and unity in the face of Saudi Arabia’s many tribes and factions. It also sends a message that the 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has the full backing of his father, King Salman, to carry out sweeping anti-corruption reforms targeting senior royals and their business associates, who have long been seen as operating above the law,” writes ABC News.
The arrests came as a total surprised to most of the detained.
However, these wildly wealthy individuals, which includes the Economy and Planning Minister Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, aren’t roughing it in a jail or prison cell.
“A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. told The Associated Press that the royal— who is one of the world’s richest men— was among those detained overnight Saturday. The company’s stock was down nearly 9 percent in trading Sunday on the Saudi stock exchange,” writes Newsmax. “Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference with global business titans from the U.S., Japan and other countries. A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also being used to hold some of those arrested.”
The three arrested ministers have been replaced.
“Laws will be applied firmly on everyone who touched public money and didn’t protect it or embezzled it, or abused their power and influence,” said King Salman’s order. “This will be applied on those big and small, and we will fear no one.”
Bin Salman has acted as a change agent in Saudi Arabia and has made a promise to reform the country.
“From literally his Vision 2030 plan, to social reforms with women driving, and as we see now the third leg of it, an aggressive push to root out corruption,” said John Defterios, a CNN reporter that focused on the Middle East.
But Defterios believes the reason for the push to combat the corruption is due to the sluggish revenues from the oil industry.
“The correction in oil prices has changed the game they cannot afford to go business as usual as they have for the past 20 years,” said Defterios. “That’s the reason why they want to diversify the economy and also make a bold attempt to root out corruption.”
“The crackdown comes as Saudi Arabia moves forward with an economic liberalization plan centered on the initial public offering of a piece of the state energy firm, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the largest oil producer in the world. The IPO could generate as much as $100 billion, making Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund the largest in the world and helping the kingdom invest in other areas beyond oil—a plan referred to as Vision 2030,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “The arrests send a clear message that corruption won’t be tolerated as the kingdom pushes through its plan for economic reform, said Mohammed Alyahya, a Saudi political analyst and nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.”
In order for the economy to recover, the corruption has to be addressed.
“MBS (Prince Mohammed) has made it very clear that he will crack down on corruption, and that he is willing to do it from the top first,” said Alyahya. “The bottom line is that corruption costs the government. We have economic problems…There is no way you can achieve Vision 2030 without tackling these issues.”
Author’s note: The King and his son are making a statement with the detainment of these rich leaders. But it also appears to be an act of desperation. With the lower price of oil, Saudi Arabia has been forced to take from its foreign reserves and will run out of money within a few years. So, they are scrambling to re-structure and rooting out corruption may be part of that.