Saudi anti-corruption purge winds down, but questions emerge

Saudi anti-corruption purge winds down, but questions emerge
Wed Feb 7, 2018 12:21:16

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal headed outdoors to Saudi Arabia's terracotta-colored sand dunes over the weekend, after being interrogated, investigated and detained for nearly three months in the kingdom's extraordinary anti-corruption campaign.

ASSOCIATED PRESS--   The wealthy Saudi investor and royal shared photos of himself riding horses with his grandchildren and relaxing on Persian-style rugs, two hawks perched obediently before him on wooden stilts. More than a dozen men, some there to greet him and others there to serve him, are seen seated or standing around the prince as he looks out onto the desert.

The photos on Twitter project the image of a man who still reigns supreme over his own fiefdom, a man who can still hold a "majlis" - a reception in which people line up to request favors and assistance.

But the prince's more than 80-day detention exposes a new hierarchy in the kingdom and brings into sharp focus just how little power even the wealthiest royals wield in the face of Saudi Arabia's young potentate-in-waiting.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's 32-year-old son and heir, oversaw the unprecedented shakedown of at least 11 princes and dozens of business moguls and officials, who together symbolized the elite structure encircling the ruling Al Saud family and its vast patronage networks. But now there are questions whether the prince succeeded in his effort to centralize power and eradicate corruption.

The purge is now winding down, or at least moving to a new phase. More than 300 of those detained in the sweep have been released, though 56 others are still in custody and could face prosecution. The luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where most detainees were held, is scheduled to reopen to the public on Feb. 14.

Among those detained was Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a contender for the throne. The night of his arrest, he was ousted as head of the powerful National Guard, a position once held by his father, the late King Abdullah. His arrest raised concerns the purge was politically-motivated.

At the Ritz-Carlton, where Prince Alwaleed, Prince Miteb and many others were held, interrogators dressed in civilian clothes and supervised by some Cabinet ministers questioned the detainees about their financial dealings.

Guards were positioned outside the rooms, where detainees had access to room service and satellite TV.


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