This Is How Bin Salman Forced Members of the Saudi Royals to Sell Their Property Abroad

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




An American newspaper revealed that a number of princes of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia sold assets abroad worth more than half a billion dollars, fearing the accountability and oversight that the Saudi Crown Prince and the de facto ruler of the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman, have tightened over them since taking office over the financial portfolios of the very wealthy royal family.

The newspaper stated that this trend comes from the princes' fear of their assets and property by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (36 years), in reference to the possibility of repeating the experience of the Ritz-Carlton, when bin Salman was arrested inside it, princes, ministers and businessmen, and they were only released with huge financial settlements.

The American Business Insider website had criticized the policies of repression pursued by bin Salman, who is trying to create an image of himself stating that he is different, that he is a reformer, at least in the social field, and that he is not involved in corruption.

The report published in March 2020 stated that bin Salman spent huge amounts of money on yachts, palaces, and paintings; in addition, he controls a large part of the wealth of the Al Saud family, which is estimated at about $1.4 trillion.


Severe Financial Constraints

The Wall Street Journal said in a report on April 24, 2022, that several princes of the Saudi royals have so far sold $600 million worth of real estate, yachts, and works of art they own in the United States and Europe, according to some people close to the princes who sold.

“The sales represented a change in status and fortune for the prominent princes who used the resources of oil sales and real estate in the seventies and eighties of the last century; in addition to the business deals in which the government participated, and they transferred them to the privileged markets of the world, where this money was largely spent on assets,” the newspaper considered.

It is noteworthy that US diplomatic cables from the 1990s leaked by WikiLeaks revealed that some princes of the Saudi royals were obtaining wealth by taking loans from local banks without paying them, controlling common lands, and exploiting and profiting from expatriate worker visas.

People familiar with the issue said that the princes continued to use these financing methods until bin Salman came to power, but the salary system for thousands of princes, which costs the government billions of dollars annually, is still in effect, but the crown prince gradually cut it off from them.

“Some princes resorted to selling these assets again after bin Salman dried up their sources of income in Saudi Arabia, which they used to continue the habit of excessive spending, as the monthly expenses of some of them amounted to $30 million,” the newspaper added.

In addition, these princes needed cash to pay the regular bills, including property maintenance, tax payments, employee salaries, and parking fees for their planes and boats, which made them vulnerable to recent changes in government policy, after the arrival of bin Salman.

“Some of those princes had been arrested at the Ritz-Carlton in 2017, in a move that the Crown Prince described at the time as necessary to combat corruption,” the newspaper noted.

Critics described it as blackmail and manipulation of power by the crown prince to exclude a number of princes he saw as his rivals, including his uncle and his older cousin, who were imprisoned in 2020, and strip them of their special privileges regarding their money and investments.

The newspaper pointed out that the Saudi government is aware of the sale; meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Information refused to answer the American newspaper's questions about the financial affairs of members of the royal family.

On its part, the British newspaper, The Times, commented on the tightening of the financial restrictions of the Saudi royals, saying in its report that “the days of spending $30 million a month are over.”

“The large Al Saud family includes thousands of young princes who earned huge fortunes from oil deals and contracts in which the government participated. They spend the country's wealth on houses, planes, yachts, and servants, much to the contempt of the Saudi middle classes,” it added.

“Since taking power, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reduced their participation in government business deals and their privileges, including free vacations and huge utility bills running up to their gilded palaces,” the newspaper said.


Bin Salman Impoverished Them

In some cases, according to insiders told the Wall Street Journal, Saudi princes are selling out for less ostentatious assets to avoid attracting the attention of bin Salman, who has curtailed their privileges and access to state funds since his father took the throne in 2015.

The list of sellers of their assets outside the Kingdom includes the names of the most powerful figures who were influential in the Saudi government, among them is Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, who held several high positions as defense minister, intelligence chief, and the kingdom's ambassador to Washington, and whose name was also mentioned in the report.

The newspaper revealed that Prince Bandar sold a house worth $155 million in the Cotswolds, west of London, in 2021, according to people close to him and familiar with the deal.

The report said that his father, the late Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, was also one of the main branches of the royal family whose sources of income were drained during the reign of the new crown prince after his wealth had been accumulated over half a century during his tenure as defense minister.

Banking data, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, shows that in just one year, he transferred tens of millions of dollars from government accounts at the Saudi American Bank directly to proxy accounts in Switzerland to save money for his luxury life.

According to people close to the royal family familiar with the deal, Sultan's heirs emptied the contents of his Knightsbridge place, which sold for a record $290 million in 2020.

His son, Prince Khalid bin Sultan, who led coalition forces alongside Norman Schwarzkopf in the 1991 Gulf War, sold a place next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris for $87 million in 2020, and a 220-foot luxury yacht in 2019.

Informed people said that some of Prince Sultan's sons are also trying to mortgage their global assets to make up for the shortfall in traditional sources of income.

In November 2021, Credit Suisse filed a lawsuit against his son Fahd bin Sultan, accusing him of defaulting on loans to refinance a $55 million luxury yacht and a $48 million property in south London.

“Many of Sultan's heirs want a less luxurious lifestyle because they spend a lot of money and want cash and don't need the luxury properties they inherited,” said Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates, which specializes in luxury real estate, who has been involved in many of the Sultan family's transactions.

The report mentioned the name of the late Prince Turki bin Nasser, who held the position of Deputy Commander of the Air Force and was among the detainees at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, whose fortune was previously estimated at $3 billion, according to a Saudi official.

His name was also mentioned in a British investigation about receiving bribes from BEE to manufacture weapons systems in exchange for lucrative contracts to supply Saudi Arabia with fighters and other equipment, which became known as the al-Yamamah deal in the eighties of the last century.

The report says he sold a 203-foot yacht in 2020, and a $28.5 million home in the Beverly Park community of Los Angeles in 2021, according to people familiar with the transactions, but he died (in 2021) before the home sale was completed.

British historian Robert Lacey, who has recorded the history of the Saudi royals since the 1980s, said that “a disciplined and specific system was imposed, and the princes had to live on this basis.”


A History of Extravagance

Since the name of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman has emerged, the extravagance that accompanies his foreign visits and his passion for acquiring valuables and exotics (a yacht, a palace, helicopters, and rare paintings) have followed him.

In December 2017, the New York Times highlighted the property of bin Salman, which cost him about $1.3 billion for only 3 things (a yacht, a painting, and a house).

“Bin Salman bought the Louis XIV Palace in France for $300 million two years ago, as it was the most expensive house in the world, which contains 15,000 gold sheets, 10 bedrooms, two ballrooms, a meditation room, swimming pools, and a playground Squash, gym, theater, cinema, private nightclub, and wine cellar,” the newspaper revealed.

“Bin Salman had bought a 440-foot yacht owned by Russian vodka billionaire Yuri Shefler, which includes swimming pools, 12 luxury rooms, and two helicopter landing platforms, worth $550 million in France, while his country was living in a state of austerity,” it confirmed.

“In late 2017, bin Salman purchased a painting of the Savior of the World by Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci for $450 million,” the newspaper also added.

It confirmed that this amount is the highest ever as a price for a masterwork, despite the Saudi embassy in Washington denying the news, the American newspaper based its information on a report from the American intelligence.

Earlier, the Saudi dissident Majid al-Asmari had said in a statement to Al-Estiklal: “The waste of Saudi state funds by kings and princes and their illegal collection, such as seizing budgets, embezzlement, bribery, and robbery of citizens' properties and companies is an old matter and has existed since the establishment of this authority in the thirties of the last century.”

“The absence of popular accountability for bin Salman for what he is also doing is not new, in addition, the Al Saud family enjoys immunity from means that are supposed to be accountability for the unjust Saudi regimes, such as the judiciary or notifications to the security authorities, which has led citizens to despair of these traditional means,” he added.

“The authority considers the public denunciation of the manifestations of wealth, waste, and corruption practiced by members of the ruling family or practiced in their name, as a violation of obedience to the ruler, provoking sedition, and inciting public opinion,” Mr. al-Asmari indicated.

He concluded that “the people of the country of the Two Holy Mosques have no choice but to organize demonstrations and revolutionize the regime that destroyed their lives through poverty and unemployment, imposed all kinds of corruption on them and their families and deprived them of the wealth of their country by monopolizing it to the Al Saud family just to squander and enjoy it as they please.”