The Latest: Saudi crown prince shocks kingdom with arrests
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Latest on Saudi Arabia, where dozens of princes and former ministers have been arrested as authorities announce an anti-corruption drive (all times local):
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 are potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom Sunday as he further consolidated power.
Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday 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 crown prince 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.
Saudi Arabia’s attorney general says an anti-corruption sweep is treating its suspects with “the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen.”
Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb did not acknowledge the arrests or name any suspects, but The Associated Press has reported that billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and other senior royals, military officers, businessmen and ex-ministers have been detained and are being held in five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh.
Al-Mojeb stressed that all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty and “retain full legal privileges relating to their personal and private property, including funds.” However, he says a suspect’s position or status will “not influence the fair application of justice.”
The attorney general said Sunday the newly-formed anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is conducting investigations to ensure transparency and good governance.
The statement did not specify further what alleged crimes had been committed.
The Ritz Carlton hotel chain says it is “evaluating the situation” at its hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after reports it is being used to house some of those detained in a wave of arrests of princes and former government officials.
Ritz Carlton spokeswoman Sarah Walker-Kerr declined to discuss Sunday what was happening at the hotel.
Some of the 11 princes and 38 former government ministers, deputies and businessmen arrested in Saudi Arabia are reportedly being held at the hotel. Phone lines to the hotel have been cut off since Sunday morning.
A Saudi security official earlier told The Associated Press that the detainees are being held in five-star hotels across Riyadh as part of an anti-corruption sweep.
The arrests have cemented the hold on power for King Salman and his 32-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The White House has released more details about a phone call between President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, but the statement did not make any reference to the overnight arrests of high-level princes and officials in the kingdom.
The White House statement said Sunday that Trump and Salman discussed counterterrorism efforts, “the continuing threat of Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen” and Saudi Arabia’s interception of a missile fired from Yemen at its capital, Riyadh.
President Trump also thanked the monarch for Saudi Arabia’s military purchases, including a $15 billion investment in the American-made THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system.
The president also asked the king to strongly consider listing state-oil firm Aramco on a stock exchange in the United States, which Trump had earlier mentioned in a tweet.
Shares of an investment company owned by a Saudi billionaire detained in a massive sweep in Riyadh have dropped 10 percent in trading on the kingdom’s stock market.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the head of Kingdom Holding Co., is among the 11 princes and 38 former government ministers, deputies and businessmen now detained in Riyadh.
Kingdom Holding’s drop on the Tadawul stock exchange comes as it announced its third-quarter earnings Sunday morning. It said it had profits of 247.5 million riyals ($66 million), compared to a loss of 345.9 million riyals ($92 million) in the previous period last year.
The company said in a filing its earnings rose on an “increase in hotels and other operating revenues in addition to increase in dividends income.”
A Saudi government official with close ties to security says 11 princes and 38 former government ministers, deputies and businessmen are being held in five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh, in an anti-corruption sweep.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The AP earlier reported that among those detained is Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Reports say some of the detainees are being held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
A royal court official, Badr al-Asaker, on Sunday appeared to confirm the arrests on Twitter, describing a “historic and black night against the corrupt.”
— Aya Batrawy and Abdullah al-Shihri
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been detained in a large anti-corruption sweep targeting dozens of senior princes and government ministers.
A high-level employee of the King Holding Company, which Prince Alwaleed chairs, told The Associated Press that the royal had been among those detained overnight Saturday. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of repercussions.
Prince Alwaleed is one of the Middle East’s richest people, with investments in Twitter, Apple, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Citigroup, the Four Seasons hotel chains and most recently in ride sharing service Lyft.
He’s also known for being among the most outspoken Saudi royals, long advocating for greater women’s rights. He is also majority owner of the popular Rotana Group of Arabic channels.
The government has so far only announced that an anti-corruption probe was launched, with state-linked media reporting that dozens of princes and ministers were detained without releasing their names.
— Aya Batrawy and Abdullah al-Shihri
Saudi Arabia has reportedly arrested 11 princes and dozens of former government ministers as it announces a new anti-corruption campaign, further cementing King Salman and his crown prince son’s control of the kingdom.
The arrests late Saturday, as well as the king’s removal of a prominent prince in charge of the National Guard, came as Lebanon’s prime minister, a close Saudi ally, announced his own resignation from the Saudi capital only hours earlier.
The moves further shake up Saudi Arabia and the greater Middle East as regional conflicts still rage around the kingdom. Shiite rebels in Yemen, the target of a 2 ½ year Saudi-led military campaign, fired a ballistic missile toward Riyadh’s international airport on Saturday night.
The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news channel reported the arrests late Saturday of 11 princes and dozens of former ministers.