The purpose and destination of the U.S. $106 billion reclaimed from Saudi’s commercial elite caught up in MbS’s anti-corruption drive in November 2017 has yet to be fully disclosed. In order to secure public support, MbS would be astute to ensure that a significant proportion is redirected towards public projects. However, if the ruling elite choose to remain opaque about the whereabouts of this financial windfall, then the now infamous Ritz Carlton anti-corruption drive will go down into history as a guise cloaking a major power play be the Crown Prince in his rise to the top.
- Early into the high profile “anti-corruption crackdown”, Bloomberg reported that Saudi authorities were confident of appropriating somewhere between U.S. $50 billion - U.S. $100 billion worth of assets from those in detention. Under the surface of exposing corruption, a financial motive therefore underpinned this sweeping arrest from its very outset.
- Days before the Ritz Carlton was reopened to the public in early February, Attorney General Saud Al Mojeb subsequently announced that 325 individuals had agreed to forfeit approximately 400 billion riyals (U.S. $106 billion) worth of assets to the state (The Guardian, 20th January 2018). Just like that, the state was in possession of a pool of funds valued at the upper end of its initial projections.
- Now that international interest in the crackdown has subsided, the true colours of Riyadh’s ruling elite are set to emerge. The period ahead will serve as a litmus test for the intended accountability and transparency of MbS and his men, and expose the arrest for what it truly was: an intimidating shakedown or the beginning of systemic change.