Saudi Midnight Blitz Arrests of 11 Royal Officials: What's Going On?

Over the weekend, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia arrested 11 cousins of the royal family without any charges. The potential charges pertain to corruption, but there are no specifics. The purge began Saturday night. Private aircraft are grounded.

Prince Alwaleed, a billionaire investor in Citigroup and Twitter is among those arrested. Prince Alwaleed had a tangle with Trump in 2015.

Alwaleed to Trump

Trump Response

Massive Purge

In one breathtaking stroke, the men were detained by the Saudi authorities in a purge that began Saturday night and swept up some of the most powerful and recognizable names in the country, including members of the Saudi royal family, cabinet ministers, titans of media and industry and former officials. The detainees included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a wealthy investor who owns major stakes in such companies as Twitter and Citigroup, according to an associate of his family. The detentions come at a time of political, social and economic upheaval in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that has become one of the Trump administration’s closest Middle East allies. The reasons for Alwaleed’s arrest were not immediately clear. The prince, who is the founder of the business conglomerate Kingdom Holding and one of the world’s most prominent investors, had been supportive, at least publicly, of the Saudi leadership, including its controversial intervention in Yemen’s civil war. His detention — along with a number of other business tycoons — suggested that the Saudi leadership was sending a message that something fundamental had changed, Lacroix said. In the past, Saudi Arabia “would allow the existence of powerful people or fiefdoms, as long as they remained loyal in the general sense,” he said. “It’s not about loyalty anymore. Mohammed bin Salman doesn’t want to allow the existence of those fiefdoms.”

Saudi Purge List

  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding
  • Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, minister of the National Guard
  • Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh province
  • Khalid al-Tuwaijri, former chief of the Royal Court
  • Adel Fakeih, Minister of Economy and Planning
  • Ibrahim al-Assaf, former finance minister
  • Abdullah al-Sultan, commander of the Saudi navy
  • Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group
  • Mohammad al-Tobaishi, former head of protocol at the Royal Court
  • Amr al-Dabbagh, former governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority
  • Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, owner of television network MBC
  • Khalid al-Mulheim, former director-general at Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Saoud al-Daweesh , former chief executive of Saudi Telecom
  • Prince Turki bin Nasser, former head of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment
  • Prince Fahad bin Abdullah bin Mohammad al-Saud, former deputy defence minister
  • Saleh Kamel, businessman
  • Mohammad al-Amoudi, businessman

Unconnected Events

What's Going On?

  1. This is a traditional move by a corrupt Saudi regime to consolidate power.
  2. This is a genuine reform aimed at tackling corruption.

A reader asked me to comment on what's going on.

Let me put it this way: I will believe number 2 when I see it.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

No. 1-15

I'll add another guess: It's mainly about the cash burn rate. There was simply no way 5,000+ princes and their enormous entourages were going to deliver on commitments to get their cash burn rates in line with $50 oil. After three years of watching their reserves disappearing at an alarming rate, the king went to plan B.


It's always about power and money no matter what they tell you.


Too many princes with too many high profile entanglements; too little oil money. As in all kleptocracies, once available loot decreases past a certain point, what used to look like cohesion amongst the looting classes, starts breaking apart as they become more and more dependent on looting each other.


Regardless of the reason, the more of the Saudi royal family dead, the better. They're a menace to the world.


Nothing to do with the recent Saudi royal visit to Moscow the other week? Obviously, they went there for the sun and duty frees and check out the holiday pics of the Qatari's from their visit the month before. With the Turks, Iranians and Syrians on Vlad's Christmas card list I'd be a little concerned if I was in the American or Israeli government.