In a new anti-corruption probe, 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers have been detained in Saudi Arabia.
Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was among those arrested, a shock to the kingdom and to global financial centres.
Prince Alwaleed is one of the world’s richest men and owns investment firm Kingdom Holding. Its interest includes Twitter Inc., JD.com Inc., the Four Seasons hotel chain, Ebay, TimeWarner, Apple, EuroDisney, Motorola, Citigroup and News Corp. The prince’s extensive portfolio also contains several satellite television networks.
Saudi Arabian King Salman said the creation of the anti-corruption probe, under which Prince Alwaleed was detained, aimed to identify and investigate the “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money.”
Saudi power player
The 62-year-old prince is one of the grandsons of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s founder. The prince does not a hold a government position but his corporate power makes him an influential figure in Saudi policy making.
Vegan and women’s rights supporter
Prince Alwaleed is known to favour women’s rights. He openly supported women driving years before King Salman issued the decree on ordering that women be allowed on the roads. The prince also employs women, which may be considered as a forward-thinking attitude in a country where females must seek permission from a male guardian to work.
The prince is also known to be an animal rights activist and a vegan. He is tied to Silicon Valley’s Hampton Creek which makes vegan condiments and is working on lab-grown meat.
Prince Alwaleed’s son is an investor like his father and focuses on eco-friendly businesses.
In 2015, Prince Alwaleed said he would donate $32 billion to charities that aim to “foster cultural understanding”, “empower women”, and “provide vital disaster relief”.
Taking on Trump
According to The New York Times, the prince has done business in the past with US President Donald Trump, buying control of New York’s Plaza Hotel and purchasing one of Trump’s yachts.
But both men have traded insults on Twitter. In 2015, the Prince described Trump as a “disgrace” and urged him to withdraw from the presidential race, as he would “never win”.
Trump hit back accusing the “dopey” Saudi royal of wanting to control US politicians with his “daddy’s money”.
Earlier, in 2001, Prince Alwaleed attempted to donate US$10 million for September 11 victims but the donation was refused by New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani because the Prince had criticised American foreign policy.