Billionaire prince held in 5-star hotel amid sweeping Saudi purge, reports say

One of the world’s richest humen, who’s been the longtime face of Saudi Arabia’s outreach to the west, remained locked up in a 5-star hotel Monday, following a weekend reorganization of the Kingdom’s royal family.

The reshuffling resulted as Saudi King Salman swore in new officials to replace those arrested in the sweeping anti-corruption probe.

Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is a nephew of the king and is worth an estimated $18 billion, is reportedly being held up at the country’s Ritz Carlton in Riyad, along with 10 other princes and 38 officials. Rumors swirled the royals were receiving five-star accommodations when the luxury hotel was evacuated Saturday, The New York Times reported. An airport for private airplanes was also closed, perhaps to prevent industrialists from fleeing via the airport.

The arrests that began late Saturday included Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for the past four years had led the National Guard, and Adel Fakeih, who was ministers responsible for economy since April. They were reportedly arrested in a purported anti-corruption probe led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne, though he has not been believed to be lately as a challenger to Prince Mohammed.

Prince Alwaleed is accused of money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, an official told Reuters on Sunday.


Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was arrested late Saturday, along with 10 other princes and 38 public officials and tycoons. ( Reuters)

The major purging came hours before Senior Saudi Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir Province, and seven other officials were killed in a helicopter accident near Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, BBC reported, citing state media. It’s unclear what caused the crash. Prince Mansour, the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, was returning from an inspection tour Sunday night.

Investors were left shaken after Prince Alwaleed’s arrest. The billionaire is the chairman of Kingdom Holding Co ., which lost 7.5 percentage in trading Sunday. The company attained no including references to its chairman’s arrest, but on Monday said in a statement it has the government’s “vote of confidence” as it pursues its investment strategy and global business operations.

As of 2016, Alwaleed held a five-percent stake in 21 st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company. It was not immediately clear how much of a stake he currently holds, but he is known to have invested through his fund, Kingdom Holding, in Apple, Lyft, Twitter and other high-profile companies. Kingdom Holding manages more than $12.5 billion of investments around the world.

CEO Talal al-Maiman said the company is focused on its “unwavering responsibilities” to shareholders.

In this photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, the new Economy and Planning Minister, Mohammad al-Tuwaijri, right and the new National Guard chief, Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, left, pose for a photo with King Salman during a swearing in rite in Riyadh. ( AP)

The official Saudi Press Agency released images of the king on Monday swearing in new National Guard chief Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin and new Economy and Planning Minister Mohammad al-Tuwaijri.

The king was also pictured fulfilling Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, who unexpectedly resigned during a trip-up to Saudi Arabia. The photos of their meeting did little to quiet supposition over his surprising move and current status. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, Hariri’s top political challenger at home, argued on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri to resign amid the deepening Saudi-Iran rivalry and wanted to know whether Saudi Arabia had also incarcerated him in the sweep.

The Saudi government has not corroborated those apprehended or named those who were detained. A statement by the attorney general’s office said no assets of any suspects had still not been frozen. Saudi Twitter accounts released several other names of those arrested, including Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, a former finance minister, and Bakr Binladin, head of the Saudi Binladin Group, a major business conglomerate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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