With recent news that a second luxury hotel has been mysteriously booked up the Saudi authorities, supposedly for wealthy suspects in the country’s on-going anti-corruption purge, it appears increasingly obvious that a goal of the purge is to raise revenue for the Saudi state. According to insiders, Saudi suspects being held as part of the Kingdom’s crackdown have been offered agreements to transfer their assets to the government in exchange for the charges against them being dropped. In other cases, wealthy businessmen and officials are transferring funds from their personal accounts directly to government controlled ones. The Kingdom’s officials maintain that they expect to eventually recover $100bn this way. The corruption probe has even been widened to look into military officials, which could prove embarrassing for close allies in places like London, which have defense agreements going back decades with Riyadh. Fixing the depleted Saudi treasury is seen as an urgent objective for Saudi Arabia’s young reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Saudi detainees were rounded up in a rapid purge earlier this month, just hours after the creation of a new anti-corruption body directly under the control of the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (popularly known as MBS). They included previously untouchable figures like the multi-billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and two sons of the late King Abdullah, who occupied the Saudi throne until his death in 2015 (when his half-brother – and the father of MBS – King Salman bin Abdulaziz succeeded him). Since King Salman ascended to the throne he has moved to eliminate all opposition, clearing the way for his son to rule unopposed in the future.