- Billionaire Prince, Bin Talal, Among Dozens Arrested in Saudi Sweep
Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of princes, senior military officers, businessmen and top officials, including a well-known royal billionaire with extensive holdings in Western companies, as part of a sweeping purported anti-corruption probe that further cements control in the hands of its young crown prince.
A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. told The Associated Press that the royal— who is one of the world’s richest men— was among those detained overnight Saturday. The company’s stock was down nearly 9 per cent in trading Sunday on the Saudi stock exchange.
Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference with global business titans from the U.S., Japan and other countries. A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also being used to hold some of those arrested.
The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of the late King Abdullah’s sons, were hailed by pro-government media outlets as the greatest sign yet that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is keeping his promise to reform the country, long been plagued by allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government.
Analysts have suggested the arrest of once-untouchable members of the royal family is the latest sign that the 32-year-old crown prince is moving to quash potential rivals or critics. The prince’s swift rise to power has unnerved more experienced, elder members of the ruling Al Saud family, which has long ruled by consensus, though ultimate decision-making remains with the monarch.
The king named his son, the crown prince, as head of an anti-corruption committee established late Saturday, just hours before its arrest of top officials.
A Saudi government official with close ties to security said 11 princes and 38 others are being held. The official spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
Marriott International said in a statement that it is currently evaluating the situation at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. “As a matter of guest privacy, we do not discuss the guests or groups with whom we do business or may be visitors of the hotel,” the statement added.
The scale of the arrests is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, where senior royals and their business associates were seen as operating above the law. Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by people in power.
Shortly before the arrests, King Salman had ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the National Guard. The prince is reportedly among those detained in the sweep, as is his brother, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was once governor of Riyadh. Both are sons of the late King Abdullah, who ruled before his half-brother King Salman.
Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne.
Saudi Twitter accounts released several other names of those arrested, such as: 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, the former finance minister; and Bakr Binladin, head of the Saudi Binladin Group, a major business conglomerate.
An earlier crackdown on perceived critics of the crown prince included clerics, writers, lesser-known princes and Saudi figures popular on social media.
“The dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed rather than forging alliances is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the national guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war,” James M. Dorsey, a Gulf specialist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said an analysis of the shake-up.
Saudi Arabia said late Saturday it intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at Riyadh International Airport, on the outskirts of the capital. The crown prince, as defense minister, oversees the stalemated war against Yemen’s Iranian-allied rebels.
The finance ministry said the anti-corruption probe “opens a new era of transparency and accountability”, enhances confidence in the rule of law and improves the kingdom’s investment climate.
It was not clear what Prince Alwaleed or others were being investigated for.
The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said the anti-corruption probe was looking into the response to flooding in Jiddah that killed around 120 people in 2009 and devastated the city again in 2011, as well as the government’s handling of a Coronavirus outbreak that has killed several hundred people in recent years.
Prince Alwaleed’s many investments include Twitter, Apple, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Citigroup, and the Four Seasons, Fairmont and Movenpick hotel chains. He is also an investor in ride-sharing services Lyft and Careem.
The prince, often pictured on his 85.65-meter (281 foot) superyacht in the Mediterranean, is among the most outspoken Saudi royals and a longtime advocate for women’s rights. He is also majority owner of the popular Rotana Group of Arabic channels.
The AP reached out overnight to Kingdom Holding for comment. There was no response as of yesterday afternoon. The senior employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to fear of repercussions, said security bodies informed him of the arrest.
The kingdom’s top council of clerics issued a statement saying it was an Islamic duty to fight corruption— essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported. A top royal court official, Badr al-Asaker, yesterday appeared to confirm the arrests on Twitter, describing a “historic and black night against the corrupt”.
The government said the anti-corruption committee has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets, and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary.
Meanwhile, Prince Miteb was replaced by a lesser known royal, Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, to head the National Guard— a prestigious force tasked with protecting the royal family, important holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and oil and gas sites.
Just three months earlier, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was plucked from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister, overseeing internal security. This laid the groundwork for the king’s son to claim the mantle of crown prince.
Oil Prices Recover Slightly Amidst Demand Concerns in U.S. and China
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
Business3 weeks ago
Nigeria’s Logistics Sector Holds Untapped N3tn Potential, Says Courier and Logistics Management Institute
Black Market Rate4 weeks ago
Black Market Exchange Rate Today 14th November 2023
News4 weeks ago
Millionaire Powerplay Limited Unveils Unprecedented Odds in American Lotto’s Instant Cashless Payout
Forex3 weeks ago
Black Market Exchange Rate Today 16th November 2023
Forex4 weeks ago
Black Market Exchange Rate Today 10th November 2023
Black Market Rate3 weeks ago
Black Market Exchange Rate Today 21st November 2023
Telecommunications3 weeks ago
Airtel Africa Announces Interim Dividend Amidst Robust Half-Year Performance
Naira4 weeks ago
N-Power Dismisses Fake Recruitment Reports, Highlights Ongoing Payment Resolutions