Saudi Princes Among Dozens Arrested In Apparent Move To Boost King's Son

Saudi Princes Among Dozens Arrested In Apparent Move To Boost King's Son

Billionaire Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, is among people detained and under investigation by a new anti-corruption body, a senior Saudi official told Reuters on Sunday.

The committee is also trying to find out how the state agencies handled the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past few years.

Meanwhile, the kingdom's top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption - essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported.

The prince was the son of Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - who was the crown prince of Saudi Arabia from January to April in 2015.

The dramatic shake-up comes at a time of social and economic transformation in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman steps up his reform drive for a post-oil era.

Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by people in power.

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The crown prince warned earlier this year that anyone guilty of corruption would be punished.

He had inherited control of the national guard, an elite internal security force built out of traditional tribal units, from his father, who ran it for five decades. It also sends a message that the crown prince has the full backing of his father, King Salman, to carry out sweeping anti-corruption reforms targeting senior royals and their business associates, who have always been seen as operating above the law.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, told the Associated Press the arrests were created to further smooth the crown prince's eventual succession to the throne.

The arrest of Alwaleed and other royals further clears a path to power for the rising crown prince, who in June ousted his elder cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as interior minister and heir to the Saudi throne.

Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan was also sacked as commander of Saudi Naval Forces and replaced by Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghifaili.

Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah was relieved of his post as minister of the National Guard and replaced by Khaled bin Ayyaf, while Economy Minister Adel Fakieh was replaced by his deputy Mohammed al Tuwaijri.

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