Saudi authorities arrested Saturday night many royal family members, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor who owns major stakes in companies like Twitter and Citigroup and is the founder of the business conglomerate Kingdom Holding.
The arrests news was announced by the state news agency and the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel. A report late Saturday said that 11 princes, four current ministers as well as “tens” of former ministers had been arrested on the orders of Prince Mohammed, who was named by his father as the head a new anti-corruption committee created only hours before. The anticorruption committee has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.
Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh
The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumors that it would be used to house detained royals. The airport for private planes was also closed. The arrests occur in a moment when Saudi leaders have embarked on a widely-publicized drive to modernize the kingdom, including by relaxing social restrictions in the ultraconservative kingdom and liberalizing its oil-dependent economy. Commentators anticipated that the arrests were made to easing the path to the throne for the 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is an executive monarchy without a written Constitution or independent government institutions like a Parliament or courts, so accusations of corruption are difficult to evaluate.