World

Billionaire Saudi prince Alwaleed detained in probe -official (4280)

Billionaire Saudi prince Alwaleed detained in probe -official (4280)

Saudi Arabia has announced the arrest of 11 princes including prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, following the formation of an anti-corruption committee by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, media reports said on Sunday.

Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah has been relieved of his post as minister of the National Guard and replaced by Khaled bin Ayyaf, while Economy Minister Adel Fakieh is replaced by his deputy Mohammed al Tuwaijri.

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In addition to Prince Alwaleed, who is one of Saudi Arabia's best-known worldwide businessmen as an investor in firms such as Citigroup and Twitter, those detained included Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the big Saudi Binladin construction group, and Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network.

Bloomberg quoted a senior Saudi official as saying that 11 princes and 38 current or former senior officials were arrested. Many of them are potential rivals or critics of the crown prince, whose purported anti-corruption sweep sent shockwaves across the kingdom Sunday as he further consolidated power.

Other names listed were of businessmen, including Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group, Alwaleed Al Ibrahim, owner of television network MBC, and Khalid Al Mulheim, former director general at Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday 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 62-year-old is one of the largest shareholders in Citigroup and also owns stakes in News Corp and Twitter.

Prince Alwaleed's father was the kingdom's finance minister during the 1960s.

An economist at a big Gulf bank, who declined to be named because of political sensitivities, told Reuters nobody in Saudi Arabia believed corruption was at the root of the purge.

"People will be looking at any kind of global holdings of the people who have been arrested, to see what will be the impact".

The committee is also trying to find out how the state agencies handled the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past few years.

The arrests follow the king's dismissal of top ministers and a crackdown on dissidents.

The committee's goal was to "preserve public money, punish corrupt people and those who exploit their positions", according to the royal decree.


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