Sat | Nov 25, 2017

Saudi arrests of princes consolidates another's power grab

Published:Monday | November 6, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this 2010 file photo, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud attends the speech of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, at the Saudi Shura "consultative" council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP):

Saudi Arabia's heir to the throne is overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country's most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers - some of them potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom yesterday as he further consolidated power.

Among those taken into custody overnight were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest men with extensive holdings in Western companies, as well as two of the late King Abdullah's sons.

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.

 

DETAINEES HELD IN HOTELS

 

Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference that the crown prince attended with global business titans. 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 Ritz-Carlton had no availability for bookings until December 1, 2017 - a possible sign that an investigation of this scale could take weeks. Marriott International said in a statement that it is currently evaluating the situation at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, but declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns.

A Saudi government official with close ties to security forces said 11 princes and 38 others were being questioned. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.