Saudi Arabia has removed multiple ministers and princes from ministerial positions amid an anti-corruption investigation headed by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The news was announced on state media on November 4, 2017, with an official statement from King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who eluded to the exploitation of senior government positions. Some of those targeted by the anti-corruption committee were the minister for the economy, the head of the national guard, and the head of the navy. All of whom have been replaced. Along with the ministers, a number of princes have been removed from state positions, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman. Approximately 15 cases have been named so far.
In a commissioned statement from the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman explained the need for the committee and outlined their function within the government. The primary function being, “to identify offenses, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption”, stated King Salman. He also suggested that the individuals named on Saturday were, “weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money”. In terms of what he outlined about the actual committee, it would seem that they have the full and absolute power of the government behind them, being able to track funds, freeze accounts, and issue arrests where necessary. On top of that, they have been given the power to apply any “measures deemed necessary” on individuals, in order to return state funds and assets.
It is no secret that the billionaire Saudi princes have been frivolous with money and assets, whether that be personal or state. The upper class in Saudi Arabia has become increasingly comfortable with wealth, yet it appears that the Crown prince has a vision for the future of Saudi Arabia and that does not involve laziness or incompetence. Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been in his position since June, following a hasty ousting of the previous heir, since then the prince has been responsible for a number of changes in the Saudi government. The Crown Prince is reportedly incredibly ambitious, and has plans to transform the country and economy by 2030.
From the available news reports, it appears the Crown prince is actively working in favour of the Saudi public, protecting state funds and re-instating public trust. If the accusations are truthful and the 15 or so individuals have been misusing state funds, then obviously this is a positive development. If the committee continues with their strict enforcement of legality then there is really little to scrutinize, since the entire investigation is in the best interests of the Saudi population. On the other hand, and this is purely speculation. As father and son now hold a powerful position, the crackdown on senior ministers and other princes could be seen as an act of maintaining power and eliminating political threats or political roadblocks. The committee itself is headed by the prince and acts under his direction. Again, no specific charges have been brought against the individuals in question – only dismissal under the broad guise of corruption allegations.
Being in the early stages in this investigation, more information will likely become available regarding the issue at hand. Hopefully, the Saudi government will become completely transparent going forward, as not to cause alarm or suspicion. In light of recent news, the overall outlook is positive, finding corrupt individuals and removing them is always a benefit for a government.