Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it will freeze the bank accounts of a billionaire prince and other high-profile members of the royal family who were arrested on corruption charges over the weekend.
Among 11 royals and several other government ministers arrested Saturday was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an internationally prominent investor with an estimated net worth of around $19 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia Arrests 11 Royals In Move To Consolidate Power For Crown Prince)
In addition to locking down bank accounts, the Saudi government said it will seize any property linked to corruption charges.
“The accounts and balances of those detained will be revealed and frozen,” the kingdom’s information ministry said in a statement, according to Agence France Presse. “Any asset or property related to these cases of corruption will be registered as state property.”
Saudi officials described Saturday’s arrests as the result of an investigation by a newly created anti-corruption committee. The group was created by a royal decree “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds,” the Saudi government said.
Official justifications notwithstanding, the sweep was widely seen as as a move to consolidate power around Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne currently occupied by his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. On the same day as the arrests, King Salman removed the powerful royal rival Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his position as minister of the National Guard, giving Crown Prince Mohammed tighter control over the kingdom’s security services.
Saudi authorities have not yet disclosed specific allegations against Alwaleed, who was picked up at his desert camp and brought to the Ritz-Carton Hotel in Riyadh with the other detained royals, reports the Intercept. One of the world’s richest men, Alwaleed has significant equity holdings in several U.S. technology companies, as well as stakes in Saudi companies across the real estate, retail and petrochemical industries.
The arrest of Alwaleed and other royals further clears a path to power for the rising crown prince, who in June ousted his elder cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as interior minister and heir to the Saudi throne.
President Donald Trump’s administration has cheered Crown Price Mohammed’s rise while touting the young royal as a forward-thinking economic and social reformer. Washington has also supported the crown prince’s aggressive foreign policy in the Persian Gulf region, lending military support for the Saudi war against Iran-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen and sanctioning the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.
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