Saudi Arabia’s finance guru gets swept into a whirlwind of anti-corruption reforms

Posted on November 12, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s power balance has been dramatically changed, after Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent member of the Royal Family, a billionaire investor and a well-known face of the kingdom’s financial landscape has been arrested in a sudden turn of events, as part of an anti-corruption initiative led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


Bin Talal, the controlling shareholder of Kingdom Holdings, his investment arm, owns significant stakes in large U.S.-based companies such as Apple, Citigroup, and Twitter and is frequently featured in major media outlets worldwide for investment advice and economic forecasts.


A few weeks ago, many news agencies made his comments about bitcoin, the popular crypto-currency, go viral after he referred to the currency as “Enron in the making”.


Prince Alwaleed has also been included by Forbes in its widely known Forbes 2017 Billionaire List and has an ample reputation for being a pragmatic investor and a prominent individual within the global financial community. For this reason, his arrest comes as a shock, in a country where the boundaries between the royal family business ventures and the government’s finances are far from being clear.


His apprehension comes after Bin Salman announced the creation of an anti-corruption committee to enforce his views and plans to strengthen the kingdom. The royal decree mentioned the importance of the committee and justified its formation “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds”.


As a result, more than 38 people have been arrested so far, including princes, along with former, current and deputy ministers from different areas of the government. On social media, many have already started to name this event as “the Saudi purge” or “the Saudi night of the long knives”. You gotta love the internet community’s weird sense of humor.


Kristian Coates Ulrichsen from the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University said regarding Bin Salman’s move that “As a leader who is set to remain in power for decades, Mohammed bin Salman is remaking the kingdom in his own image and signaling a potentially significant move away from the consensual balancing of competing interests that characterized Saudi rule in the past”.


It remains unclear how the situation will turn out for each of these individuals, including Bin Talal. But, in a country ruled by an Islamic system, with no written constitution and no parliament, anything can definitely happen.



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