Saudi authorities have arrested billionaire global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as part of an anti-corruption purge.
Bin Talal, whose firm Kingdom Holding has investments in Apple, Twitter and Motorola, was among 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers who were detained, two senior Saudi officials told Reuters on Sunday.
Prince Alwaleed is one of Saudi Arabia’s best-known international businessmen as an investor in firms such as Citigroup and ride-hailing app Lyft.
The news follows the announcement that Saudi Arabia is set to invest $500 billion in developing a new mega-city at the intersection of the Middle East and North African. ‘NEOM’ is reportedly set to be a technologically-driven city of the future.
Other detainees include former finance minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, a board member of national oil giant Saudi Aramco; economy minister Adel Fakieh, who once played a major role in drafting reforms; former Riyadh governor Prince Turki bin Abdullah and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah.
News of the purge came in the early hours of Sunday after King Salman decreed the creation of an anti-corruption committee chaired by his 32-year-old son Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Analysts said the goal of the purge went beyond corruption and aimed to remove potential opposition to Prince Mohammed as he pushes an ambitious reform agenda.
The new body was given broad powers to investigate cases, issue arrest warrants and travel restrictions and freeze assets.
“The homeland will not exist unless corruption is uprooted and the corrupt are held accountable,” the royal decree said.
In September, he announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted and he is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists.
In terms of economic policy, he has slashed state spending in some areas and plans a big sale of state assets.
Some detainees were believed to be held at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh, sources in contact with the government told Reuters. The hotel and an adjacent facility were the site of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination last month.