Saudi king sacks top ministers, gives more power to crown prince
Riyadh: Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes, including a prominent billionaire, and dozens of current and former ministers, reports said, in a sweeping crackdown as the kingdom's young crown prince consolidates power.
Saudi King Salman appointed two new ministers on Saturday to key security and economic posts, removing one of the royal family's most prominent members as head of the national guard, as part of a series of high-profile sackings that sent shock waves in the kingdom.
The king also announced the creation of a new anti-corruption committee chaired by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman which Al Arabiya TV said had already detained 11 princes, four current ministers and tens of former ministers. The suspects were not named.
The state-run Saudi press agency said the commission's goal was to "preserve public money, punish corrupt people and those who exploit their positions".
Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal was among those arrested, Saudi news websites said, though there was no official confirmation.
An aviation source said security forces had grounded private jets in Jeddah, possibly to prevent any high-profile figures from leaving.
The kingdom's top council of clerics tweeted that anti-corruption efforts were "as important as the fight against terrorism", essentially giving religious backing to the crackdown. "The breadth and scale of the arrests appears to be unprecedented in modern Saudi history," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in the US.
"The reported detention of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, if true, would send shock waves through the domestic and international business community."
The cabinet reshuffle saw Prince Miteb bin Abdullah replaced as minister of the national guard by Khaled bin Ayyaf, while economy minister Adel Fakieh was removed in favour of his deputy Mohammed al-Tuwaijri, according to a royal decree carried by state-run media.