Billionaires in Saudi Arabia are falling over themselves to get their absurd number of assets out of the kingdom well before officials seize $800 billion from the country’s elite.
Some of the country’s richest families are in talks with their banks and other companies to attempt and make sure their titanic fortunes aren’t taken by the government, in a move against corruption.
Officials from the country claim 208 folks have been called in for questioning for embezzlement and corruption, with the investigation spanning a time frame of a few decades.
Among those targeted involve princes, military officials and government members as well as a number of businessmen.
Nevertheless, there are some vocal pundits of the move, who are stating the attempts are a thinly veiled attempt at a power grab by the crown prince to diminish risk from rivals.
The Saudi government has so far not unveiled any names of those who’ve been detained for questioning, nor have they unveiled official figures of the money frozen.
The move has resulted in the mass exodus of funds from some of the accounts, into other countries as cash or other assets.
Based on the Wall Street Journal, the government’s sweep of the money catches a total of $800 billion in its net.
Nonetheless the sweep will not affect the businesses owned by the suspects, based on the Saudi government.
Central bank chief, Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, stated:
It’s worth clarifying that concerned individual accounts rather than their corporate businesses have been put in suspension until final court rulings.
In other words, corporate businesses remain unaffected.
It’s business as usual for both banks and businesses.
Analysts have stated the move is an effort to try and centralise power away from those who could pose a risk to Prince Mohammed bin Salaman, who is Minister of Defense of the Kingdom.
Included in the daring move is the firing of a number of powerful royal members – such as the national guard chief.
James Dorsey, from Singaport’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, explained to the Daily Mail:
The dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed, rather than forging alliances, is extending his iron grip to… counter opposition.
It raises questions about the reform process that increasingly is based on a unilateral rather than a consensual rewriting of the kingdom’s social contract.
Some specialists also state the risk of short-term uncertainty will have a negative effect on the country’s economy and could cause even more money to be siphoned away from Saudi Arabia in the long-term.
Nevertheless, supporters of the move have stated it proves Prince Mohammed bin Salaman is a social disrupter, who’s attempting to get rid of the established nepotistic social order from the top down.
Only time will tell what this signifies in the long-term for the nation, but in the interim, hundreds of high profile members of the establishment continue to be in custody.
Saudi Arabia’s surprise crackdown, which led to the arrests of princes, billionaires and officials over the weekend, is expanding beyond those previously detained in what authorities described as an anti-corruption drive.
The central bank ordered banks in the kingdom to freeze the accounts of dozens of individuals who aren’t under arrest, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. Already, as much as $33 billion in personal wealth belonging to the richest detainees has been put at risk.
More may be on the way: The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority sent a list of hundreds of names to lenders, telling them to freeze any accounts linked to them, two of the people said. They asked not to be identified because the information is private. No reason has been given for the actions and central bank officials didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
The weekend arrests of princes, officials and billionaires, included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a shareholder in such global companies as Citigroup Inc. and Apple Inc., reverberated across board rooms and financial institutions in the biggest Arab economy and globally. Saudi stocks fell.
The move drew support from President Donald Trump but also raised concern among analysts that a power grab was underway. In all, 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers and well-known businessmen were taken into custody, according to Saudi media and a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The arrests were under the auspices of an anti-corruption commission that King Salman set up on Saturday, headed by his son and heir, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The king also dismissed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the powerful National Guard, taking out one of the last princes who had survived a series of cabinet reshuffles promoting allies of the crown prince.
The detentions ordered by King Salman reinforced speculation that he was clearing any remaining obstacles to his son’s accession to the throne. But they were also lauded by many Saudis bearing the brunt of low oil prices who have long complained that the kingdom’s elite was above the law.
The Saudi attorney general said in a statement released Monday that weekend arrests of princes, businessmen and officials were only “phase one” of the anti-corruption drive.
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