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Saudi Arabia’s corruption crackdown pauses after 200 detained, at least $50 billion seized

Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on corruption has come to a pause after about 200 people were detained and 2,000 bank accounts were frozen. Authorities expect the crackdown to net $50-100 billion.
The crackdown came from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has now consolodated authority after seizing assets from some of the country’s most rich and powerful men.
But Salman’s larger push to privitaize parts of the government and raise $300 billion has stalled.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has completed the main wave of arrests in its sweeping crackdown on corruption and is preparing to channel billions of dollars of seized funds into economic development projects, a Saudi minister said on Monday.

“As far as I know, this is the case,” Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi told Reuters when asked whether authorities had finished taking large numbers of top officials and businessmen into custody.

“Now the government will not keep its mouth shut when it sees a corrupt case. So definitely it will act. But this is — in terms of its magnitude, in terms of scale, in terms of how, in terms of why, in terms of now, that’s it,” he said.

Dozens of princes, officials and businessmen were detained last month, about 200 people questioned, and over 2,000 bank accounts frozen in the purge, which has strengthened the authority of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some suspects will go to court but authorities are seeking to reach financial settlements with most and said last week that the first deals had been done. Senior prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, was freed after agreeing to pay over $1 billion, officials said.

A special Ministry of Finance account has been opened to receive such funds, which the public prosecutor’s office has estimated should eventually total between $50 billion and $100 billion, Qasabi said during a visit to Washington to meet U.S. businessmen.

“This money definitely will be used for housing, for the general public needs, because it is the money for the people. It will not be used for any other issue but for development projects.”

The public prosecutor is expected in a few days to issue a statement on the status of the investigation, including how many people are detained and how many face legal charges, Qasabi added.

Riyadh is seeking huge amounts of U.S. and foreign investment to reduce its dependence on oil exports. Qasabi conceded that U.S. businessmen were somewhat concerned by the potential impact of the crackdown on corruption.

“They’re worried about if this is … will be, the end of it or where it will stop,” he said.

“But they all think this will be good for the country, because the country’s leadership stood visibly to fight corruption, and ultimately this will be a level playing field for everybody.”

The economic reforms include a privatization program that is to raise some $300 billion. In the past 18 months, there has been little concrete progress as deals have been slowed by red tape, legal uncertainties and high asking prices for assets, foreign businessmen say.

Qasabi said the program was on track and the government, having identified sectors to be privatised, was working on the complex mechanics of asset transfers that would take place by mid-2019. Sea ports will be a major area of activity, he said.

Privatization of grain mills under the Saudi Grains Organisation is in its final phase and could be completed by mid-2018, Qasabi added.

The economy has been hit hard in the past couple of years by low oil prices and government austerity measures. Authorities have promised stimulus steps and Qasabi noted they had this year increased the capital of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund, which makes soft loans to businesses.

More stimulus measures are likely to be announced with the 2018 state budget, expected to be released in late December, or before then, he added. Financial incentives offered by the government could total 70 billion riyals ($18.7 billion).

Qasabi chairs a program that encourages strategic Saudi companies to expand globally in sectors such as food, logistics, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals. The government will allocate money to help them grow by acquiring other firms locally, he said.


UAE President Orders Joint Cooperation Committee with KSA

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued on Monday a resolution forming a Joint Cooperation Committee between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The committee will be chaired by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and deputized by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

In its first article, the resolution stipulates the establishment of a joint committee for cooperation and coordination between the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The second article specifies that the chairman of the committee shall issue a decision appointing its members from representatives of a number of federal and local government bodies and sectors in the country. The committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries. It shall have all the powers necessary for carrying out and executing its work.

The resolution is effective from its date of issuance and will be published in the official gazette.

Trade exchange between the two countries has witnessed a big leap over the past six years. Total non-oil trade between the two countries increased from $15 billion in 2011 to $19.5 billion during 2016 with a growth rate of 29.8 percent.

UAE’s imports from Saudi Arabia is about $4.4 billion, while non-oil exports accounted for 32 percent with $2.9 billion, while re-exports accounted for 20 percent equivalent to $1.7 billion of the value of trade exchange between the two countries.

UAE is among the top investors in Saudi Arabia with investments exceeding $9 billion in 16 of the most important sectors and economic activities, which are contracting and real estate.

There are about 32 UAE companies and investment groups investing projects in Saudi Arabia.

By the end of 2015, Saudi investments reached $4.4 billion.

The Saudi Ministry of Economy recorded 3,041 companies, agencies and brands in the UAE, including 26 companies, 73 commercial agencies and 2942 brands. By the end of 2015, number of licenses granted for Saudi economic activities in the UAE amounted to 7,769 licenses including: 6,279 commercial licenses, 246 professional licenses, 949 professional licenses, 183 industrial licenses and 111 tourist licenses.

According to the Ministry of Economy’s database, non-oil direct trade and free trade in the two countries have witnessed significant increases over the past years.

The value of free zone trade between the two countries increased from $7.7 billion to $10.2 billion, an increase of $2.5 billion and a growth rate of 32.4 percent.


Saudi Arabia vows to stabilize global energy market

RIYADH, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — Saudi Arabia on Monday reiterated its commitment to stabilizing the global energy market, Saudi media Al-Arabiya reported.
Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud made the pledge while meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
The Crown Prince added that his country decided to achieve the goal through a supply mechanism to serve the interests of both producers and consumers.
The two sides also reviewed topics in the fields of energy, environment, industry and joint investments, especially in the petrochemical, infrastructure and energy sectors.
Saudi Arabia has reasserted its leadership in the oil market on Thursday after brokering its desired extension of output cuts with OPEC and non-OPEC partners till the end of 2018.
During his visit to Riyadh, Perry has signed with his Saudi counterpart Khaled Al-Falih a Memorandum of Understanding to promote energy cooperation between the two countries in the field of clean fossil fuels and carbon management.


Saudi Crown Prince named world’s third most influential personality

Riyadh: Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ranked third on Bloomberg Businessweek’s 50 Most Influential People list who defined global business in 2017.

The list is topped by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, followed by Robert A. Kotic, an American businessman who serves as CEO of Activision Blizzard, reported Sabq.

“The prince’s most powerful tool for reshaping the Saudi economy remains his plan—set for next year—to sell a stake in state oil giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co, which could be the biggest initial public offering in history”, said Bloomberg Businessweek.

The magazine says that the prince was pushing to allow women to drive, a decision that is forecast to add $90 billion to the economy by 2030.

It highlighted the efforts of the prince to ensure that the Saudi sovereign fund is the world’s largest, agreeing to commit $20 billion to an infrastructure investment pool with Blackstone Group LP for projects mainly in the U.S. and $45 billion over five years to SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son’s $93 billion Vision Fund.

A total of 2,700 journalists, experts and analysts surveyed the top 50 most influential personalities in the sectors of economy, culture, technology, culture, political science and entertainment.


Saudi- Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Receives Bulgarian Premier

(MENAFN – Saudi Press Agency)
Riyadh, Rabi’I 11, 1439, November 29, 2017, SPA — The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received at his palace in Riyadh today visiting Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria Boyko Borisov.
At the outset of the meeting, the King welcomed the Bulgarian senior guest and the accompanying delegation in the Kingdom.
Then, the monarch and Bulgarian Premier each shook hands with other side’s official delegation. The Saudi delegation includes princes, Shura Council speaker, ministers, and commanders of military sectors.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques held a luncheon party in honor of the Bulgarian Premier.
The reception was attended by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh region; Prince Mansour bin Saud bin Abdulaziz; Prince Dr. Turki bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Kabeer, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Dr. Mansour in Miteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State, Member of the Cabinet and Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President of the General Commission for Tourism and National Heritage; Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology; Prince Ahmed bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman, Governor of Al-Dareya Province; Prince Dr. Abdulaziz bin Sattam bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz bin Ayaf; Minister of National Guard; Prince Faisal bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, Consultant at the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources; Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, Consultant at the Royal Court; Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz, Consultant at the Royal court; Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Governor of Riyadh Region; Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Interior; Prince Bandar bin Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Chief General Intelligence; Prince Saud bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Consultant at the Royal Court.
16:53 LOCAL TIME 13:53 GMT


King Salman receives British Prime Minister and holds talks with her

British Prime Minister Theresa May has arrived in Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh on an official visit on Wednesday night.

Upon her arrival at King Salman Airbase, she was received by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh region; Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a number of officials.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received May at his palace in Riyadh and has held talks in the presence of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

During the meeting, they reviewed the bilateral relations between the two countries and means of enhancing them, in addition to discussing developments in the region.

British Ambassador to the Kingdom Simon Collis, Vice President of State Office Joanna Bain, Military Adviser John Clarke and Deputy National Security Adviser Christian Turner attended from the British side.



Yemen crisis highlights the enigma of Saudi Crown Prince

A Saudi-led blockade of Yemen that triggered a humanitarian crisis has pundits puzzling over the contradictions of the increasingly powerful Saudi heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who appears ruthless and liberal in equal measure.

United Nations food and medicine was granted entry on Monday to the millions of Yemeni at risk of disease and starvation.

It was the first time Saudi Arabia had allowed shipments to reach Yemeni ports in roughly three weeks, after it imposed a blockade in retaliation for a Houthi rebel missile strike on Riyadh.

Experts see apparent contradictions. The Saudis, under newly appointed Crown Prince bin Salman, are escalating their regional power struggle with Iran. They are blockading Yemen and Qatar.

They allegedly forced the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. And Crown Prince bin Salman has detained – and allegedly tortured – dozens of his high-ranking rivals.

But at the same time, Salman, the young and brash heir known affectionately as ‘MBS’, is reportedly cracking down on corruption and giving more rights to Saudi women than they have ever had.

WFP aid plane lands at the Sanaa International Airport. Photo: Getty

Raihan Ismail, lecturer in Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, said the Saudi Arabian government is acting in vastly unpredictable ways.

“It is doing things you wouldn’t expect. And there is more attention on Saudi Arabia because of it,” Dr Ismail told The New Daily.

“Saudi Arabia is definitely changing and it is transforming quite rapidly. This is very much due to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is 32 years old, rather progressive and very ambitious.

“He is playing a significant role in domestic and foreign policy. And he is trying to consolidate his position. If King Salman were to abdicate next year – and that is a strong possibility – you will have Mohammed bin Salman ruling Saudi Arabia.”

MBS is vigorously purging his opponents and has ordered the arrests of prominent members of the ruling family, while empowering other members of the ruling family to assist him.

“This is where some political commentators are quite puzzled,” Dr Ismail said.

“They look at some of his domestic policies and it is clear that he is quite progressive.

“He wants to eliminate corruption and he is fighting radical elements. He is empowering women – not only to drive, but he gave women access to services without them having to get permission from a male guardian. This is a huge thing in Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. Photo: Getty

“Yet externally, he’s doing some atrocious things. He’s fighting a war in Yemen. Many would argue that he started it in 2015. Yemen is a catastrophe.

“When it first happened, many countries in the region were quite supportive. But now people are changing. It’s catastrophic and the Western media is reporting it as such, so people in the region are becoming quite nervous about it. Some are now saying that Saudi Arabia needs to rethink some of its foreign policy.”

Professor James Piscatori, also from the ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, agreed that today’s Saudi Arabia appears to be a contradiction.

The Crown Prince, he said, seems to be having several battles at once – on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts.

“There is Yemen, Qatar, Iran, ISIS – all at the same time. Yemen and Qatar at least are not too successful and seem to be backfiring to some extent,” Professor Piscatori said.

“The interesting thing here is that he’s doing these things at exactly the same time as that he is being progressive domestically.

“The things he is doing domestically are very popular with his rather young population. Going after the fat cats is not bad policy.

“My guess is that there isn’t a great deal of concern at home about his foreign policy adventures either. Internationally, of course, the criticism is quite strong.

“There is a dragging down in the region in foreign policy terms. But I don’t think the wider global community will stand up to it. And for obvious reasons. The Saudis are a substantial power. They are an economic power.

“The ones who could stand up to them are the US, but they are doing exactly the opposite. There is absolutely no pressure from the US for Saudi Arabia to change. Britain and everyone else are falling over themselves to sell arms.

“I don’t know that the Saudis want more power in broadly international terms, but what is absolutely clear is they are flexing their muscle in the region.”


Saudi prince Mutaib freed after weeks in detention following Mohammed bin Salman’s purge

Saudi authorities have released Prince Mutaib Al Saud, who was detained early November as part of an ongoing purge against leading princes and businessmen in the kingdom led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Mutaib is son of the late king Abdullah and former minister of the National Guard. Holding sway over the powerful agency, he had been touted in the past as possible future king of Saudi Arabia, before his ambitions were derailed after his father’s death and the rise of King Salman, father of MBS.

He was reportedly held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh along with a number of leading princes and businessmen on allegations of ‘corruption’ on November 4.

MBS’s critics say the campaign amounts to a power grab by the ambitious crown prince targeting his rivals in the royal family and the establishment.

The prince’s sister, Princess Basma bint Abdullah, confirmed the news on Tuesday, saying Mutaib had been let go at noon.

Later, Princess Nouf bint Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, sister of Mutaib’s wife, tweeted: “Praise be to Allah… you have returned to us safe, Abu Abdullah,” in reference to the former minister.

MBS’s purge began early in November hours after an anti-graft commission headed by bin Salman himself was set up.

More than 30 figures have been taken into custody at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh including Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, and two of late king Abdullah’s sons, including Mutaib.

Analysts say Prince Mutaib’s detention was meant to sideline his influence over the security apparatus that could hinder MBS’s ascension to the throne, as well as confiscate billions of dollars from his personal wealth.

His release may be a sign a deal has been reached to secure his political retirement and handover of part of his assets.


Saudi- Crown Prince Congratulates Mauritania’s President on Independence Day

Riyadh, Rabi’I 09, 1439, November 27, 2017, SPA — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense has sent a cable of congratulations to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Islamic Republic of Mauritania on the anniversary of his country’s Independence Day.
In his cable, the Crown Prince wished the President constant good health and happiness and his people steady progress and prosperity.


Saudi Crown Prince hails unity in ‘strong message’ against terrorism

More than 40 nations have sent a poignant message that Islamic nations stand united in the fight against terrorism, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud said Sunday.

Speaking during the first meeting of defense ministers of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), where a Kuwaiti delegation headed by defense minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah is present, the Saudi Crown Prince stressed that “the Islamic faith will never be sullied.”

Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is also the Kingdom’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, described the meeting as “very important,” given how terrorism has run rampant and unchecked in the last few years.

On a related note, he extended his heartfelt condolences to the people of Egypt in the wake of an attack on a mosque in the country’s northern Sinai Peninsula, where more than 200 people lost their lives in what appeared to be the deadliest assault on Egyptian civilians.

Meanwhile, the Islamic coalition’s military commander and retired Pakistani General Raheel Sharif said that the Islamic military alliance was formed due to the complexity of the fight against terrorism.

Officials from 41 nations have assembled for the IMCTC meeting, which outlines efforts and initiatives taken to keep terrorism at bay.

Source: KUNA


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Quote by the Prince

"We seek to be proud of our country, and allow the latter to contribute to the development of the world, whether on the economic, environmental, civilisational, or intellectual levels."

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