Friday, December 29, 2017
Almost two months into it, Saudi Arabia's crackdown on corruption is yielding at least some of the $100 billion the kingdom is targeting. Dozens of former officials and businessmen have exchanged part of their wealth for freedom.
But in the increasingly drawn-out case of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the public face of the Saudi royal family to many foreign executives and investors, there's more at stake than taking over his global business empire and talks on a settlement have hit an impasse.
The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is about to enter a crucial few months that will show his true motives and the scope of his power. How the case unfolds will help investors and diplomats answer a question puzzling them since the nightly raids of Nov. 4: Whether the purge is an effort to root out graft before selling shares in the country's oil giant, or simply a shakedown to boost state coffers while he asserts himself at home and abroad.
People with knowledge of the matter say Alwaleed is balking at demands that could see him relinquish control of Kingdom Holding Co. He also is resisting any suggestion of wrongdoing because of the impact it would have on his reputation, they said. The prince owns the vast majority of the $9 billion conglomerate, which has stakes in household names from Citigroup Inc. to Twitter.
Prince Miteb, son of the late King Abdullah and the former head of the powerful National Guard Corps, was released after paying the equivalent of more than $1 billion, a senior Saudi official said last month. Two other sons of the former monarch were released this week, according to a person familiar with the matter and a Saudi royal who celebrated their freedom on social media.
"Prince Alwaleed is powerful and well connected, but this may not end well given that he is in a battle with an even more powerful group," said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington. The purge is "a harsh way to show that some of the old ways of doing business are over to a great degree," he said.
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