Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of princes and former officials, including a well-known billionaire with extensive holdings in Western companies, as part of a sweeping anti-corruption probe that further cements control in its young crown prince. A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding Co. told the AP that the royal was among those detained overnight Saturday. The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of the late King Abdullah's sons, were being hailed by pro-government media outlets as the greatest sign yet that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is serious about reforming the country, which has long been plagued by allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government. The moves come barely two weeks after Saudi Arabia hosted a major investment conference.
Analysts suggested the corruption probe, which targeted key members of the royal family, was a show of force by the crown prince, aimed at undermining potential rivals. A Saudi government official with close ties to security says 11 princes and 38 former government ministers, deputies, and businessmen are being held in five-star hotels across Riyadh. The scale of the arrests is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, where senior royals and their business associates have long been untouchable. The Finance Ministry said the anti-corruption probe "opens a new era of transparency and accountability." 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 arrests. And a top royal court official on Sunday confirmed the arrests on Twitter, describing a "historic and black night against the corrupt." The news broke within hours of King Salman announcing the formation of a new anti-corruption committee headed by his son, the 32-year-old crown prince.