“Gnomes Of Zurich” In Panic As Saudi Corruption Crackdown Sparks Flood Of Money Laundering Inquiries

There are two divergent views on the crackdown on corruption by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), which led to the arrest and detention of 200 princes, ministers and former ministers.
On one hand, it was a masterstroke which will earn political capital with the Saudi people and catalyse an Arab Spring in which MBS is a modernizing reformer who will liberalise Islam.
On the other, it was nothing other than a cynical and desperate attempt to tighten his grip on power and weaken competing clans within the ruling family (especially sons of former King Abdullah) as the nation risks splitting apart due to political and economic fissures. Last week, we noted that former head of the National Guard and senior member of the Abdullah clan, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, purchased his freedom for a cool $1 billion.
If you put yourself in the position of being a Saudi prince or wealthy Saudi official, whatever your opinion of MBS’s motivation, you would be forgiven for taking additional measures to make it harder for his henchmen to seize your wealth if you found yourself in the crosshairs.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2017.

Detained Saudi Prince Buys His Freedom For $1 Billion

One day you were the billionaire head of the National Guard in one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. Although that carries some risk, you were probably reassured by your position as a senior prince in the ruling family, never mind your strong ties to the US military… oh and of course the many zeros in your bank account. The next day, in a turn of events akin to Shakespearian drama, you were imprisoned (kind of) with ten of your fellow princes and a bunch of ministers and former ministers in a 5 star hotel on charges of money laundering, bribery and general corruption.
Despite being a cousin of the Kingdom’s uber-autocratic crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was a son of former King Abdullah and got caught up in a clan war in the ruling family. Former Riyadh governor and another of King Abdullah’s sons, Turki bin Abdullah, was also arrested in the crackdown.
Miteb was accused of conducting normal business practices in Saudi Arabia, such as embezzlement, hiring ‘ghost’ employees and awarding his own companies a $10 billion contract for walkie-talkies and bullet proof protection. However, after what must have been the worst three and a half weeks of his life in the Ritz Carlton ‘prison’, Miteb has purchased his freedom for a cool $1 billion.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 29, 2017.

AMERICA’S SECRET WEAPON IN THE OIL WAR

As Saudi Arabia spins from crisis to crisis, U. S. oil hasn’t missed a beat. It’s stronger and more resilient than ever – and it has nothing to do with OPEC oil production cuts.
In this war, U. S. oil wins, and the recent purge of billionaire princes in Saudi Arabia is icing on the cake.
But when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested key members of the royal family on corruption charges two weeks ago all of them his rivals – oil shot up. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) spiked more than $2 a barrel, closing around $57 a barrel – a nearly two-year high.
OPEC cuts have done little to boost oil prices, and Royal Family arrests are welcome news for oil tycoons the world over, but it’s still not what’s kept the U. S. on the winning side in this war: Fracking bust the U. S. through the front line, and major advancements in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) are cementing the victory.

This post was published at The Daily Sheeple on NOVEMBER 27, 2017.

In Escalating War Of Words, Saudi Crown Prince Calls Iran’s Ayatollah “New Hitler Of The Middle East”

Godwin’s law states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” Saudi Arabia’s powerful, and controversial, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who in just a few months has made more local (and foreign) enemies than most of his predecessors accumulated over a lifetime, decided he does not need to wait that long, and in a glowing interview with the New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman, which touched on everything from the accommodations of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, to the recent power grab anti-corruption campaign, to Donald Trump, to the Saudi social and religious revolution, called the Supreme Leader of Iran ‘the new Hitler of the Middle East’, escalating the war of words between the arch-rivals. For his part, Khamenei has referred to the House of Saud as an ‘accursed tree’, and Iranian officials have accused the kingdom of spreading terrorism.
MbS, as he is also known, and who after the recent purge is also Saudi defense minister, also slapped down the ISIS card and suggested the Islamic Republic’s alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted.
‘But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East,’ the paper quoted him as saying.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 24, 2017.

An Equal-Opportunity Thanksgiving Day Cartoon That Can’t Offend Anyone

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must be worried that some of the royals rounded up during his ‘corruption crackdown’ cash grab are holding out on him. Because the Saudi prince has reportedly hired a crew of American mercenaries who haven’t hesitated to employ an array of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.
As the Daily Mail reports, mercenaries purportedly employed by Academi, a successor to infamous US security contractor Blackwater, have been stringing up some of MBS’s ‘guests’ at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton by their feet and savagely beating them during interrogations. The claims have spread rapidly on Arabic-language social media, and even Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun has accused MbS of using mercenaries. Still, the Daily Mail isn’t the most reputable news organization, so these reports should be taken with a grain of salt.
‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
‘Blackwater’ has been named by DailyMail.com’s source as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.
The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture, which it is illegal for any U. S. citizen to commit anywhere in the world.
The Saudi crown prince, according to the source, has also confiscated more than $194 billion from the bank accounts and seized assets of those arrested, and could eventually end up with $800 billion in cash and assets to replenish Saudi’s rapidly diminishing reserves. Given the febrile atmosphere in the kingdom, and the tacit support for the crackdown among Saudi citizens, who have seen their jobs and generous government subsidies cut, MbS has been able to circumvent the country’s legal system.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 23, 2017.

Alwaleed Bin Talal Reportedly Hung Upside Down And Beaten By US Mercenaries

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must be worried that some of the royals rounded up during his ‘corruption crackdown’ cash grab are holding out on him. Because the Saudi prince has reportedly hired a crew of American mercenaries who haven’t hesitated to employ an array of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.
As the Daily Mail reports, mercenaries purportedly employed by Academi, a successor to infamous US security contractor Blackwater, have been stringing up some of MBS’s ‘guests’ at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton by their feet and savagely beating them during interrogations. The claims have spread rapidly on Arabic-language social media, and even Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun has accused MbS of using mercenaries. Still, the Daily Mail isn’t the most reputable news organization, so these reports should be taken with a grain of salt.
‘They are beating them, torturing them, slapping them, insulting them. They want to break them down,’ the source told DailyMail.com.
‘Blackwater’ has been named by DailyMail.com’s source as the firm involved, and the claim of its presence in Saudi Arabia has also been made on Arabic social media, and by Lebanon’s president.
The firm’s successor, Academi, strongly denies even being in Saudi Arabia and says it does not engage in torture, which it is illegal for any U. S. citizen to commit anywhere in the world.
The Saudi crown prince, according to the source, has also confiscated more than $194 billion from the bank accounts and seized assets of those arrested, and could eventually end up with $800 billion in cash and assets to replenish Saudi’s rapidly diminishing reserves. Given the febrile atmosphere in the kingdom, and the tacit support for the crackdown among Saudi citizens, who have seen their jobs and generous government subsidies cut, MbS has been able to circumvent the country’s legal system.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 23, 2017.

Saudi Purge Claims Its Latest Corporate Victim As Kingdom Holdings Sees $1.3 Billion Bank Deal Collapse

For the past couple of weeks we’ve written frequently about the sudden political turmoil in Saudi Arabia that resulted in two Saudi princes being killed in a span of just 24 hours and dozens others being detained on charges of corruption while having their bank accounts frozen. Here are couple of our most recent background posts on the topic:
The Saudi Purge: The Middle-East Is On The Verge Of A New War If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention Now, per an exclusive report from Reuters, it appears as though the latest casualty of the Saudi shakeup is a financing deal sought by the $8 billion dollar Kingdom Holdings which is owned and run by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal…at least until he was recently arrested that is.
Kingdom Holding’s plan to borrow money to fund new investments has stalled because owner Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been detained in Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption crackdown, according to four banking sources familiar with the matter. Kingdom 4280. SE had approached banks to obtain the loan, but the financing plan has been held up because the lenders are worried about potential repercussions if they lend to the prince’s company, the sources said.
One of the sources, who was approached for the loan, said it would have been worth roughly 5 billion riyals ($1.3 billion).

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 20, 2017.

Saudi ‘Corruption’ Probe Widens: Dozens Of Military Officials Arrested

After jailing dozens of members of the royal family, and extorting numerous prominent businessmen, 32-year-old Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman has widened his so-called ‘corruption’ probe further still.
The Wall Street Journal reports that at least two dozen military officers, including multiple commanders, recently have been rounded up in connection to the Saudi government’s sweeping corruption investigation, according to two senior advisers to the Saudi government.
Additionally, several prominent businessmen also were taken in by Saudi authorities in recent days.
A number of businessmen including Loai Nasser, Mansour al-Balawi, Zuhair Fayez and Abdulrahman Fakieh also were rounded up in recent days, the people said.
Attempts to reach the businessmen or their associates were unsuccessful.
It isn’t clear if those people are all accused of wrongdoing, or whether some of them have been called in as witnesses. But their detainment signals an intensifying high-stakes campaign spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
There appear to be three scenarios behind MbS’ decision to go after the military:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 17, 2017.

Saudi Arabia Offers Arrested Royals A Deal: Your Freedom For Lots Of Cash

As we noted shortly after the Crown Prince’s purge of potential rivals within Saudi Arabia’s sprawling ruling family, while the dozens of arrests were made under the pretext of an “anti-corruption crackdown”, Mohammed bin Salman’s ulterior motive was something else entirely: Replenishing the Kingdom’s depleted foreign reserves, which have been hammered for the past three years by low oil prices, with some estimating that the current purge could potentially bring in up to $800 billion in proceeds.
Furthermore, the geopolitical turmoil unleashed by the unprecedented crackdown helped push oil prices higher, creating an ancillary benefit for both the kingdom’s rulers and the upcoming IPO of Aramco.
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And, in the latest confirmation that the crackdown was all about cash, the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out…. and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.

Buchanan: “Reining In The Rogue Royal Of Arabia

If the crown prince of Saudi Arabia has in mind a war with Iran, President Trump should disabuse his royal highness of any notion that America would be doing his fighting for him.
Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, the 32-year-old son of the aging and ailing King Salman, is making too many enemies for his own good, or for ours.
Pledging to Westernize Saudi Arabia, he has antagonized the clerical establishment. Among the 200 Saudis he just had arrested for criminal corruption are 11 princes, the head of the National Guard, the governor of Riyadh, and the famed investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
The Saudi tradition of consensus collective rule is being trashed.
MBS is said to be pushing for an abdication by his father and his early assumption of the throne.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2017.

Behold The Saudi Plunge Protection Team

Amid all of the chaos, coups, and corruption crackdowns in Saudi Arabia, and with declarations of war being dropped like confetti, the Tadawul All-Share Index is barely lower…
We first pointed out the ‘odd’ appearance of a panic-buyer in Saudi stocks just two days after the chaos erupted. But it has now been a week and it seems someone is extremely keen to keep up appearances that all is well in the ‘market’ for Saudi stocks….

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 12, 2017.

The Saudi-Iran Brewing War

The turmoil in the Middle East has been instigated in part by fiscal mismanagement. When the money was rolling in with high oil prices, it was assumed, as always, that whatever trend is in motion will remain in motion. Consequently, the government expanded their spending assuming money would continue to flow in. When oil broke, the fiscal mismanagement has been exposed for all to see if they care to look.
Falling oil prices have decimated revenues and trade in the region. Security worries about terrorism, particularly in the US, have led to cuts in airline routes. Then there has also been a long-running diplomatic and trade impasse between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand, and Qatar on the other. Now the good-old-days of easy money and rapid growth has led to concerns about over-capacity, waste, and corruption that nobody cared about when money flowed like oil.
We are witnessing the beginning of a Middle East War between the Suni and Shite where the latter opposes kings and the state should be ruled by religious leaders. Iran and its Lebanese ally, the militant Shia group Hezbollah, claim the Saudis detained Mr. Saad El-Din Rafik Al-Hariri is a Lebanese-Saudi politician who has been the Prime Minister of Lebanon since December 2016. They allege that Saudi Arabia forced his resignation. Rex Tillerson said he had received assurances that Mr. Hariri was free to leave anytime.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Nov 12, 2017.

Are Saudi Shenanigans a Prelude to a New Battle Front in the Middle East?

21st Century Wire says…
The Saudi generated cycle of insanity continues. Reports that are hard to confirm or deny are circulating on social media, spreading a degree of panic and reactionary responses from all concerned.
‘Events in Saudi Arabia are unfolding at a blinding pace, with a radical shift taking place within the upper echelons of government. Last weekend, King Salman announced the set-up of a special anti-corruption force that wasted no time in rounding up more than a dozen government officials – both former and current – five members of the royal family, and several businessmen. Since then, the list has been growing, to more than 60 as of today.’ ~ Oil Price – Kingdom of Fear
On fireworks night, Bahrain allegedly put out the following announcement:
BREAKING: #Bahrain calls its nationals not to travel to #Lebanon and Bahraini residents there to leave immediately. pic.twitter.com/g5yjMh8Zpa
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 5, 2017

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on NOVEMBER 10, 2017.

Saudi “Deep State” Prince Bandar Among Those Arrested In Purge: Report

According to a new report by Middle East Eye, Prince Bandar bin Sultan – Saudi Arabia’s most famous arms dealer, longtime former ambassador to the US, and recent head of Saudi intelligence – was among those detained as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) so-called “corruption purge” that started with the initial arrests of up to a dozen princes and other top officials last weekend.
If confirmed, the arrest and detention of Bandar would constitute the most significant and high profile figure caught up in the purge – even above that of high profile billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal – given Bandar’s closeness to multiple US administrations and involvement in events ranging from Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra program (including direct involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal), to making the case for the Iraq War as a trusted friend of Bush and Cheney, to directing US-Saudi covert operations overseeing the arming of jihadists in Syria.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 10, 2017.

Power Brokers: Saudi Crown Prince Clears a Path to the Throne

Just two weeks ago, the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh took place to international acclaim. Now, investor interest has turned to intense uncertainty, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spearheads an anti-corruption crackdown, and power shifts unfold in the Gulf. But despite the short-term risks, Alex Damianou argues that the long-term impact should be positive.
The 4th of November was an historic day in Saudi Arabia. King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), demonstrated their continued, almost Machiavellian determination to execute social and economic reforms under Vision 2030. Their goals – to usher in a new area of transformation, consolidate power, and re-assert themselves on the regional battleground towards Iran.
A Strategic Move
The day began with the seemingly Saudi-influenced resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Riyadh, citing Iranian influence and fears of an attempt on his own life. This was followed by a royal decree issued by King Salman, establishing the National Anti-Corruption Committee. Chaired by Crown Prince Salman, the committee has a mandate to identify offenses, persons, crimes, and entities involved in public corruption. The extensive powers of the committee include the ability to issue arrest warrants, restrict travel and freeze accounts. As the King put it in a televised address, ‘Laws will be applied firmly on everyone who touched public money and didn’t protect it or embezzled it, or abuse their power and influence’.
In another example of the autocratic liberalization we have come to see over the past year from the King and Crown Prince, the crackdown strategically targeted power players in business and government. This included 11 princes, dozens of businessmen and senior officials, and former and sitting ministers. Notable among them are:

This post was published at FinancialSense on 11/09/2017.

Pepe Escobar: The Inside Story Of The Saudi Night Of The Long Knives

Princes, ministers and a billionaire are ‘imprisoned‘ in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton while the Saudi Arabian Army is said to be in an uproar…
The House of Saud’s King Salman devises a high-powered ‘anti-corruption’ commission and appoints his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, as chairman.
Right on cue, the commission detains 11 House of Saud princes, four current ministers and dozens of former princes/cabinet secretaries – all charged with corruption. Hefty bank accounts are frozen, private jets are grounded. The high-profile accused lot is ‘jailed’ at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton.
War breaks out within the House of Saud, as Asia Times had anticipated back in July. Rumors have been swirling for months about a coup against MBS in the making. Instead, what just happened is yet another MBS pre-emptive coup.
A top Middle East business/investment source who has been doing deals for decades with the opaque House of Saud offers much-needed perspective:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 7, 2017.

WTI Spikes Over $57 For The First Time Since July 2015

Having legged higher at the opens of Asia, Europe, and US markets, WTI is extending gains overnight on middle-east tensions…
Brent is trading above $62 amid anti-corruption drive led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which may consolidate his control in OPEC’s largest oil producer, and WTI has pushed above $57 as producers such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia signal they support a potential extension of OPEC output cuts.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 6, 2017.

Saudi Banks Begin Freezing Accounts Of Arrested Royals, Private Jets Grounded

Two days after the most stunning purge in recent Saudi history, the so-called “anti-corruption probe” – which was really a countercoup – that led to the arrest of dozens of Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen allowing Mohammed to further cement control over the Kingdom, appeared to be widening on Monday when, as Reuters reports, Saudi banks begun freezing the accounts of those arrested. The Saudi central bank ordered commercial banks to freeze the accounts of people under investigation in the probe, the Reuters sources said, adding that the number of accounts affected could run into the hundreds, although the names of those affected have yet to emerge.
‘The freezing of accounts has already happened,’ said another source. ‘The freezing is a precautionary measure that will end as soon as the suspects are either charged or pronounced innocent.’ Considering that prince Alwaleed alone has over $19 billion in assets, including nearly a billion dollars in jewelry, plans, yachts, furniture and cash…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 6, 2017.

Osama Bin Laden’s Brother Arrested In Saudi Crackdown

Among the numerous high-profile figures arrested overnight in Saudi Arabia on ‘anti-corruption’ charges, in addition to the shocking detention of prince Alwalaleed bin-Talal another unexpected name has emerged: that of Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group and brother of Osama bin Laden. The Binladin Group is one of the biggest construction companies, with an annual turnover of $30 billion. It was carrying out the expansion of the Kaaba complex.
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Bakr bin Laden
The family rejected al-Qaeda’s former leader, Osama Bin Ladin, because he was involved in terrorist activities in the 1990s. A quick primer on the Binladin Group from the WSJ:
Based in Jeddah and [ZH: formerly] favored by Saudi Arabia’s royal family, Saudi Binladin Group derives billions in annual revenue from a wide range of enterprises, including mosque construction, telecommunications and selling Snapple soft drinks in Saudi Arabia. Although the family’s U. S. spokesman says Saudi Binladin Group is wholly owned by the extended bin Laden family, not including Osama, he said he could provide no information on exactly which members have an equity interest in the company.
British paging company Multitone Electronics PLC said it was shocked to learn that its reseller in Saudi Arabia, Baud Telecommunications Ltd., is owned by the Binladin Group. “You’re joking,” Chief Executive Michael Walker said. “Oh bloody! I didn’t know. I thought it was just Baud Telecom.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 5, 2017.