Saudi Arabia seeks to reassure investors after royal purge
A picture taken on November 5, 2017 in Riyadh shows a general view of the closed Ritz Karlton hotel in Riyadh. A day earlier Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes, including a prominent billioniare, and dozens of current and former ministers, reports said, in a sweeping crackdown as the kingdom's young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman consoliates power. (FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)
(AFP) - Saudi Arabia sought to reassure investors on Tuesday that a sweeping anti-corruption purge would not affect businesses, including those with ties to arrested suspects, as authorities appeared to widen the crackdown.
Dozens of high-profile figures including princes, ministers as well as billionaire tycoon Al-Waleed bin Talal were arrested at the weekend, in the biggest purge of the kingdom's elite in modern Saudi history.
The crackdown has triggered uncertainty among businesses that could intensify capital flight or derail reforms, experts say, at a time when the kingdom is seeking to attract badly needed investments amid a protracted oil slump.
Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that any assets related to the corruption cases would be seized as state property.
"It is worth clarifying that concerned individual accounts rather than their corporate businesses have been put in suspension until final court rulings," central bank chief Ahmed Abdulkarim AlKholifey said in a statement.
"In other words, corporate businesses remain unaffected. It is business as usual for both banks and corporates," he said, adding that there were no restrictions on money transfers through legal banking channels.
Separately, Saudi commerce minister Majid al-Qasabi said that companies, including those owned by the arrested elites, will be accorded "full protection" under the law.
Among those being held are billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC, as well as construction tycoon Bakr Bin Laden and billionaire Saleh Kamal.
Local media has reported new arrests of well-known businessmen since the weekend crackdown, including Naser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, the founder of one of Saudi Arabia's biggest travel companies
In a statement to Saudi stock exchange, his company said it was aware of reports of Tayyar's arrest, adding it confirms the "continuation of business to serve the interests of shareholders and customers".
With the purge, which analysts describe as a bold but risky power play, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.
US President Donald Trump has voiced support for the crackdown, saying some of those arrested had been "milking their country for years".
© Agence France-Presse