An anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, ordered the arrest of 11 high profile Princes of Saudi Arabia including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal a grandson of founding king Abdul-aziz on the charges of corruption. To understand the present situation we have to understand two things: Claim on the throne and how corruption occurs.
In Saudi Arabian kingdom succession to throne is based on agnatic seniority, meaning all sons of the founding king have a claim to throne and the claim is decided by an internal committee to verify seniority and qualifications who appoint the most eligible one as crown prince to the current king. Often various members are ignored or excluded due to their qualifications and they get other positions as consolation. Ibn Saud had 22 wives and 45 children out of which 36 survived him. So many claimed the throne after his death and the committee decided whom to offer the throne. The current king Salman is the last of his generation to have claimed when he removed Prince Muqrin his half-brother from the succession line and appointed his nephew Prince Nayef as Crown Prince only to be replaced by his son Prince MBS. A Crown Prince is an important figure in Saudi as he controls all the decisions of the king and also dictates the direction of the government.
Saudi has seen enormous wealth due to its large holdings in petro money. But the actual facts are that only the royal family and few people have benefited from it. The land controlled by royal family is almost 65% which is highest in the world. The royal family has complete right on Oil and land which gave rise to corruption. Members of royal family have amassed huge wealth under the name of developments by inflating the costs and obtaining lands and loans from the government only to enjoy for their frivolous lifestyle and Billionaire Alwaleed who has holdings in companies like Apple, Citi Corp, Twitter etc; is just one among many. This has led to discontent among the Saudis.
The current drive and subsequent arrests of the royal family can be prima facie as a means to stronghold his succession path by MBS, but should also be considered a necessary action to stop the deep-rooted corruption in Saudi when they are preparing themselves for a Post oil era change. Ties with extremists with the royal family are also a cause of concern if the wealth is distributed. The economic and socio reform brought by Prince MBS requires the end of corruption and they prepare to invest in Tech and build a new city with a fund of 500 billion dollars. Prince MBS is now trying to consolidate his position and also trying to bring all the wealth and power under the monarchy. The purge is harsh given that Prince MBS is already appointed Crown Prince and also can cause some economic downfall of Saudi’s investments.
Article by Aravind.