Saudi Arabia could seize $800bn in assets
At least 11 princes and 38 former government ministers have now been detained They have all had thei..
- At least 11 princes and 38 former government ministers have now been detained
- They have all had their bank accounts frozen and risk having their assets seized
- Saudi Arabia's government said it will confiscate assets involved in corruption
- With list of names growing, the figure is thought to be in the hundreds of billions
By Gareth Davies For Mailonline
Published: 23:05 EST, 7 November 2017 | Updated: 05:35 EST, 8 November 2017
Saudi Arabia could seize $800 billion in assets from the kingdom's elite as part of its anti-corruption purge.
So far at least 11 princes and 38 former government ministers have been detained in the crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though there are said to be more names on the hit list.
They have all had their bank accounts frozen and risk having their assets and properties seized by the government as it attempts to flush out fraud in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh, on October 24, 2017. With the purge, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history
As the net is cast wider by government officials, the hierarchy are said to be eyeing up cash and assets worth around $800billion, according to Wall Street Journal who quoted sources close to the matter.
It is believed the number of those detained has now reached more than 60, but that the government is watching more notable figures.
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is one of the men who has been detained
Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – who is one of the richest men in the world and owns the British capital's top hotel the Savoy – is one of the men who has been detained.
He also owns the huge Kingdom Tower in Riyadh – a 99-storey skyscraper which features a Four Seasons hotel, luxury apartments and a shopping maul.
The Saudi information ministry stated the government would seize any asset or property related to the alleged corruption, meaning London's Savoy hotel could become state property in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, in an astonishing move, Saudi Arabia princes fleeing the purge have been offered asylum in Yemen by the same rebels they are bombing.
Houthi rebels have made the offer of political asylum to princes and a source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that any Saudi prince or national seeking refuge would be 'welcomed' by Yemen, their 'brotherly neighbour'.
'We are ready to offer sanctuary to any member of the Al Saud family or any Saudi national that wants to flee oppression and persecution,' the source said.
The Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, owned by Saudi billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal
The Saudi information ministry yesterday sought to reassure investors the 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 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.
The Saudi royal family arrests: Those detained in the anti-corruption purge include Prince Miteb, Prince Turki and Prince Alwaleed (circled in red)
'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.
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'.
Saudi royal purge: The Crown prince's high-stakes gambit
According to local reports, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is one of the men who has been detained
With his sweeping royal purge, Saudi Arabia's future king has upended a decades-old system of governance adopted by previous rulers in what analysts describe as a bold but risky power play.
Dozens of political and business figures were arrested at the weekend in what Saudi authorities have dubbed an anti-corruption swoop, including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, while powerful royals such as the national guard chief were sacked.
The dramatic clampdown on business figures could deal a blow to investor confidence,
potentially derailing sweeping Vision 2030 reforms, the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The purge underscores an unprecedented restructuring of the kingdom as Prince Mohammed dismantles a governance model involving consensus within the royal family, while he amasses extraordinary power.
'The structure of dynastic rule established over the past few decades is being reshaped into a more centralised monarchical system,' said Jane Kinninmont, of London-based think tank Chatham House.
'MBS is disrupting the model of Saudi government,' Kinninmont said using an acronym widely used for the crown prince.
Saudi authorities hailed the dramatic crackdown as a bold initiative to root out corruption.
But analysts question whether the issue serves as a guise for Prince Mohammed to consolidate power by eliminating rivals opposed to his reform drive and eventual succession as king.
'The dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed rather than forging alliances is extending his iron grip to… counter opposition,' said James Dorsey from Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
'It raises questions about the reform process that increasingly is based on a unilateral rather than a consensual rewriting of the kingdom's social contract.'
Prince Mohammed's supporters lionise him as an enlightened disrupter of the status quo as he pursues dramatic social and economic reforms to modernise the kingdom and prepare for a post-oil era.
The venue of the summit, Riyad's Ritz Carlton hotel, is now rumoured to be the site where many of the arrested elites are being held
His anti-graft campaign follows other bold moves, including a royal decree allowing women to drive from next June and clipping the powers of the religious police.
His ambitions were on display at an investor summit in Riyadh two weeks ago, where global business titans were shown blueprints for multibillion dollar projects, including a futuristic megacity with robots and driverless cars.
The venue of the summit, Riyad's Ritz Carlton hotel, is now rumoured to be the site where many of the arrested elites are being held.
Police cars surround the palatial complex, with its imposing gates clamped shut.
'The anti-corruption sweep has included individuals who had been seen as potential sources of resistance to elements of MBS's various projects,' said Kinninmont.
The sweep has triggered uncertainty among businesses at a time when the kingdom is seeking to attract badly needed investments amid a protracted oil slump.
Among those being held, aside from Prince Al-Waleed, is Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC, as well as construction tycoon Bakr Bin Laden (pictured) and billionaire Saleh Kama
Among those being held, aside from Prince Al-Waleed, is Waleed al-Ibrahim, owner of the influential Arab satellite network MBC, as well as construction tycoon Bakr Bin Laden and billionaire Saleh Kamal.
Research firm Capital Economics said the arrests could deal a short-term 'blow' to the economy as opposition towards Prince Mohammed builds, potentially threatening his reform drive.
Geneva's Mirabaud Securities warned that the purge, including the arrest of Prince Al-Waleed who has invested billions in companies around the world, could spook the private sector in the short term and 'intensify capital flight' from Saudi Arabia.
But seemingly unfazed, government social media channels have replayed a months-old interview with Prince Mohammed in which he stressed that neither ministers nor business tycoons will be spared if found guilty of corruption.
It is a message that resonates with the masses who seethe over a culture of privilege among old-generation royals.
'Cynics calling it a power grab but actually power had been already consolidated,' tweeted Ali Shihabi, director of the Washington-based Arabia Foundation who is said to be close to the establishment.
'This is about reshaping elite behavior by picking high profile symbols. (Its) message is that house cleaning starts at the top.'
But experts warn that the purge could trigger a backlash especially as Prince Mohammed seeks to consolidate his control over the security services.
He ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the 64-year-old son of the late king Abdullah, as the head of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
The internal security force has long been seen as a local of tribal power and a stronghold of king Abdullah's family.
In June, he also toppled the previous crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, ousting him from the interior ministry.
'Such dramatic changes are bound to meet some resistance and opposition,' Kinninmont said.
'Since there are few permitted avenues for expressing opposition and criticism in Saudi Arabia, (we) inevitably wonder whether opposition is brewing behind the scenes.'
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Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit
He’s talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can’t stop vaping.
He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.
“The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they’ll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they’re literally in withdrawal.”
Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.
is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.
The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the “number one behavioural issue” in schools across the country.
And they blame disposable vapes – which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine – but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.
For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.
“If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal’s office.
“At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren’t allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy.”
E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar – the primary cause of lung cancer.
Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.
Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.
But Australia’s government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.
Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.
The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user’s lungs.
Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.
Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.
These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as ‘nicotine-free’ can actually hold large amounts.
The chemical cocktail also contains formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde – which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.
There’s also a suggestion of an increased risk of stroke, respiratory infection, and impaired lung function.
Experts warn not enough is known about the long-term health effects. But some alarming data has already been drawn out.
In 2020, US health authorities identified more than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 68 deaths attributed to that injury.
In Australia, a major study by leading charity The Cancer Council found more than half of all children who had ever vaped had used an e-cigarette they knew contained nicotine and thought that vaping was a socially acceptable behaviour.
School-age children were being supplied with e-cigarettes through friends or “dealers” inside and outside school, or from convenience stores and tobacconists, the report said.
Teens also reported purchasing vapes through social media, websites and at pop-up vape stores, the Generation Vape project found.
“Whichever way teenagers obtain e-cigarettes, they are all illegal, yet it’s happening under the noses of federal and state authorities”, report author and Cancer Council chair Anita Dessaix said.
“All Australian governments say they’re committed to ensuring e-cigarettes are only accessed by smokers with a prescription trying to quit – yet a crisis in youth e-cigarette use is unfolding in plain view.”
In addition to the government’s move to ban the import of all non-pharmaceutical vaping products – meaning they can now only be bought with a prescription – all single-use disposable vapes will be made illegal.
The volume and concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes will also be restricted, and both flavours and packaging must be plain and carrying warning labels.
But these new measures are not actually all that drastic, says public health physician Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University.
“Australia is not an outlier. It is unique to have a prescription-only model, but other places actually ban them completely, and that includes almost all of Latin America, India, Thailand and Japan.”
‘We have been duped’
Health Minister Mark Butler said the new vaping regulations will close the “biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”.
“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”
“We have been duped”, he said.
Medical experts agree. Prof Banks argues that the promotion of e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative was a classic “sleight-of-hand” from the tobacco industry.
As such vaping has become “normalised” in Australia, and in the UK too.
“There’s over 17,000 flavours, and the majority of use is not for smoking cessation”, she tells the BBC.
“They’re being heavily marketed towards children and adolescents. People who are smoking and using e-cigarettes – that’s the most common pattern of use, dual use.”
Professor Banks says authorities need to “de-normalise” vaping among teenagers and make vapes much harder to get hold of.
“Kids are interpreting the fact that they can very easily get hold of [vapes] as evidence [they’re safe], and they’re actually saying, ‘well, if they were that unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to buy one at the coffee shop’.
But could stricter controls make it harder for people who do turn to vapes hoping to quit or cut down on tobacco?
“It is important to bear in mind that for some people, e-cigarettes have really helped. But we shouldn’t say ‘this is great for smokers to quit’, says Prof Banks.
“We know from
Australia, from the US, from Europe, that two-thirds to three-quarters of people who quit smoking successfully, do so unaided.”
“You’re trying to bring these [vapes] in saying they’re a great way to quit smoking, but actually we’ve got bubble gum flavoured vapes being used by 13-year-olds in the school toilets. That is not what the community signed up for.”
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-65522841
Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative
In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.
The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.
But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.
So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?
Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.
Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.
The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.
Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.
Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.
Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.
Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.
It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.
“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”
But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.
Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.
It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.
Critics push for investigation
Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.
But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.
And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.
Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.
Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.
“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.
“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”
The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.
And she says the same transparency is needed here.
The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them
The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.
“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.
“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”
PM defends governor-general
Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.
“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”
Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.
“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.
“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”
A role fit for purpose?
Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.
She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.
“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”
Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.
“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.
“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”
But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.
“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210
Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987
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