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The high-profile arrests of the Saudi elite as part of a so-called anti-corruption purge came after consultations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US investors as well as members of the Trump administration, investigative journalist Pepe Escobar told RT.

The Saudi crackdown has nothing to do with corruption, Escobar pointed out, saying the Crown Prince “knows exactly what he’s doing – which is an old-style purge or what I called the ‘Night of the Saudi long knives’ where he got rid of any potential high-profile contenders against his one-man rule.”

“Don’t forget, Saudi Arabia has no independent judiciary, no freedom of expression, no credible opposition. And in fact, King Salman isn’t ruling – who’s ruling is actually MBS [Mohammed bin Salman],” he said.

The detentions of 11 Saudi princes, four ministers and dozens of business figures that shook the kingdom on Saturday weren’t as unexpected as the media outlets wanted the audience to believe, Escobar says. He explains that shortly before the arrests, in late October, “there was a famous ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference where the new crown prince and the new leadership outlined the future of Saudi Arabia as envisioned until 2030, which implies a lot of investment – especially, American investors… Larry Fink, Stephen Schwarzman.” 

Three thousand international politicians and businessmen arrived in Riyadh for the Future Investment Initiative Conference, where bin Salman unveiled his plans to create a $500 billion investment zone, double the size of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to $400 billion and restore a more tolerant order in the country. 

“And few days later, Jared Kushner [US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser] was in Riyadh where he has been bonding very closely with the Crown Prince. The next day there was the ‘Night of the long knives,’” Escobar said. “Trump has kept his hands off the matter,” Escobar said, adding that “what I get from some of my best sources – they [people close to Trump] have been doing business deals with the House of Saud [Saudi ruling royal family] for decades.” 

The agreement between Washington and Riyadh “involves personal deals; this involves new foreign policy that’s very complex and, especially, [includes] antagonizing Iran and Lebanon,” he said. 

On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia – a move which Escobar described as “completely absurd.” Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah has accused Riyadh of intimidating the PM, while the Saudis responded by accusing Lebanon of “declaring war” on the kingdom by allowing Hezbollah’s “aggression” against it, according to the Al-Arabiya broadcaster.

Those behind the Saudi Crown Prince don’t differentiate between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, Escobar believes. This makes a Saudi military conflict with the neighboring state a real possibility and “this is a very serious development".


The Saudi anti-corruption push involving the arrest of princes and government ministers may lead to the confiscation of cash and other assets worth of at least $800 billion, according to people close to the issue, writes the Wall Street Journal.

“They reckon they could get around two to three trillion riyals from these people. That’s the number they are talking about,”  a person close to the government told the paper.

  • On Saturday, Saudi state media reported the arrest of at least 11 Saudi princes and four incumbent ministers, with the minister of the National Guard, and the economy minister among those detained. The arrests are reportedly the part of a broader plan to fight corruption in the kingdom.

Some leading businessmen have been arrested since the crackdown started, with more than 60 princes, officials and other big-name Saudis in custody, according to the sources cited by the WSJ.

The kingdom's central bank has reportedly frozen the accounts of “persons of interest” and said the step was “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”   According to the media, most of the frozen assets are abroad, which will make the process of reclaiming and confiscating longer and more complicated. All the funds accumulated through corruption are to become state property.  

The anti-corruption crackdown is led by a newly established committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The agency was created by royal decree of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and published by Saudi Arabia’s official news agency on Saturday. The committee is exempt from “laws, regulations, instructions, orders, and decision” while performing its wide range of duties, namely “identifying offenses, crimes, persons and entities” complicit in corruption, and gives it the power to impose punitive measures on those caught red-handed. Those include asset freezes, travel bans and arrests.

The Saudi government has been trying to close a hole in its budget after oil prices fell dramatically in 2014. The kingdom has implemented fiscal measures, including spending cuts, raising taxes, bond-sales and a future public offering of part of the kingdom’s oil monopoly Saudi Aramco. Riyadh says it plans to reduce the country's reliance on oil.


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GOVERNANCE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD - by moeenyaseen - 05-06-2007, 11:11 AM
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