Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne has started and is overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country’s most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers — some potential rivals or critics of the crown prince now consolidating his power.
Among those arrested overnight Saturday in the purported anti-corruption sweep 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.
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.