(Tyler Durden) Over the weekend, Saudi King Salman shocked the world by abruptly announcing the arrests of 11 senior princes and some 38 ministers, including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the world’s sixty-first richest man and the largest shareholder in Citi, News Corp. and Twitter. The purge was orchestrated by a new “supreme committee” to investigate public corruption created by King Salman but under the control of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who chairs the committee and is widely suspected of being the driving force behind the purge.
by Tyler Durden, November 9th, 2017
In addition to the arrests, two Royals have died since the purge began. Prince Mansour bin-Muqrin reportedly perished in a helicopter crash near the Yemen border earlier this week, and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd – killed during a firefight as authorities attempted to arrest him.
For all the chaos, Saudi Arabia is benefiting from the climb in oil prices over the past week. However, signs of stress are showing up elsewhere in regional markets, as Bloomberg points out in a recent piece.
Many of the kingdom’s millionaires and billionaires – at least those who haven’t already seen their domestic and foreign accounts frozen by the government – fear that they might be next after WSJ revealed that MbS’s purge may be nothing more than a naked cash grab, as the paper reports that the kingdom is aiming to confiscate cash and assets worth as much as $800 billion.
So, they’re doing what any reasonable rich person would do given the circumstances; they’re liquidating their assets as quickly as possible and stashing their cash offshore until things quiet down.
Some Saudi billionaires and millionaires are selling investments in neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council countries and turning them into cash or liquid holdings overseas, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. In Saudi Arabia, some are in talks with banks and asset managers to move money outside the country, the people said.
Until the surprise arrests of dozens of people last weekend, Saudi Arabia’s elite was the target of Deutsche Bank AG, UBS Group AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and other global banks seeking to manage their wealth. They now find themselves on the run in the face of a campaign that has targeted some of the kingdom’s most prominent princes, billionaires and officials.
To be sure, SAMA – the Saudi Monetary Authority and de facto central bank – has asked lenders in the kingdom to freeze the accounts of dozens of individuals who aren’t under arrest, as well as the assets of those being detained, people familiar with the matter said. The Saudi attorney general said in a statement released Monday that the weekend arrests were only “phase one” of the crackdown.
The selloff across the GCC has cost stocks $17.6 billion as of Wednesday, dragging the collective market capitalization for bourses in the region to $900 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Kuwait’s SE Price Index has lost 4.4 percent, while Dubai’s DFM General Index fell 4.8 percent. All measures in the region are down for the week with the exception of Oman’s MSM30 Index, which rose 0.3 percent.
While some are worried that shifting their money abroad right now might arouse suspicion, others have noted that there’s a lot of GCC money already sitting in accounts in Europe and Asia.
“A lot of GCC money is already sitting outside the GCC region, especially in Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Asia,” said Sergey Dergachev, who helps oversee about $14 billion in assets as a senior money manager at Union Investment Privatfonds GmbH in Frankfurt. “Those centers should remain beneficiaries if more money moves out.”
For the Saudi Royal Family, the arrests are tantamount to killing twohas realized that not only can it crush any potential dissent by arresting dozens of potential coup-plotters, it can also replenish the country’s foreign reserves, which in the past 3 years have declined by over $250 billion as oil prices have plunged from their peak.
The crackdown also comes at a time when the Kingdom’s government is seeking to channel the public’s seething anger as unemployment rises and oil revenues – which formally supplied as much as 90% of the country’s budget – tumble. The government has raised tens of billions of dollars from international bond markets and has drawn down on central bank reserves to finance a budget deficit that reached about 15 percent of gross domestic product in 2015. In an attempt to provide a long-term structural solution, MbS has proposed his Vision 2030 initiative, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy into tourism, transportation and technology industries, among others.
Of course, concerns that an all-out war might soon erupt between Saudi Arabia and Iran are also contributing to the drop in regional stocks,especially after King Salman ordered all Saudi citizens to leave Lebanon ‘immediately.’
That follows the sudden resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who announced his resignation during a visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend.
Saudi’s Arabia’s wealthy should have little trouble moving their wealth offshore if they’re so inclined; the real question, though, is whether they’ll be able to protect those assets from the long reach of SAMA, which has strong relationships with its global banking partners, in the event that they find themselves under arrest.
Saudi King May Relinquish Throne To Crown Prince Within 48 Hours: Report
by Tyler Durden, November 9th, 2017
Saudi king to relinquish throne to son within next two nights: Report#SaudiArabia https://t.co/LG3P59APgs pic.twitter.com/ZB5w0edDTZ
— Press TV (@PressTV) November 9, 2017
#SAUDI KING SALMAN TO RELINQUISH THRONE TO CROWN PRINCE BIN SALMAN “BY THE NEXT TWO NIGHTS”: RAI AL-YOUM. #OOTT
*al-Arabiya reported the same in a tweet, but retracted the tweet
— Lee Saks (@Lee_Saks) November 9, 2017
Unconfirmed sources: SAUDI KING SALMAN TO RELINQUISH THRONE TO CROWN PRINCE BIN SALMAN “BY THE NEXT TWO NIGHTS
— EHSANI2 (@EHSANI22) November 9, 2017
After the September arrests against clerics who were largely seen as regime insiders, yet who were mildly critical of the new aggressive stance against Qatar, the WSJ quoted an adviser to the Saudi government as saying, “Mohammed bin Salman is definitely preparing to become king. He wants to tackle the internal debate about him becoming the king and focus on consolidating his power, rather than doing that while being distracted by dissidents.”
During the September crackdown, which is currently receiving little commentary in relation to last weekend’s turmoil, over 30 prominent political figures were detained, most of them clerics with large social media followings and broad influence in the Arab world. The WSJ further noted at that time that…
The government has denied an abdication is planned, but several people close to the royal family say preparations have already started. The transfer of power, which several people close to the royal family had expected to occur this month, is likely to take place late this year or early next year, these people say.
At that time, one of the few commentators to rightly point out that this was not fundamentally about rounding up “outsiders” and “oppositionists” was Middle East history professor and expert on Saudi affairs, As’ad AbuKhalil. He predicted the crackdown was part of a broader campaign aimed at regime insiders and prominent voices who threatened push-back against the crown prince’s vision for Saudi foreign policy:
Unlike what some in the media are writing on social media, this crackdown is not directed against dissidents. Many of those arrested are loyal propagandists for the Saudi regime. They are being punished not for what they say but for what they are not saying: they are being punished for not being vocal against Qatar and against the Muslim Brotherhood.
Indeed, this week’s internal Saudi earthquake which has witness two deaths of prominent princes and the detention of about a dozen other princes, as well as the freezing in billions in assets, further confirms AbuKhalil’s analysis.
And AbuKhalil, who authored a book which examined internal Saudi regime fault lines called The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power, has just made another prediction based on his extensive contacts within Saudi Arabia. Last night he said bin Salman will declare himself king in less than 2 days:
I am hearing that he will be declaring himself king in the next 36 hours and that recent arrests paved the way.
The photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace shows King Salman (R) being welcomed by his son Crown Mohammed bin Salman (L) at Jeddah airport upon his return from holiday in Morocco on August 23, 2017.
Meanwhile, it appears that Saudi state-owned Al-Arabiya news may have tipped its hand early through a mistaken post to its official Twitter account. According to Iran’s PressTV:
A Saudi-owned television news channel has retracted a message on Twitter that had said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be appointed as the king during a planned ceremony.
Al-Arabiya state television, on its Twitter account, said on Wednesday that it would soon release or broadcast further details about the scheduled ceremony.
However, the channel deleted the tweet hours later.
The regime in Riyadh is apparently seeking to examine public reaction regarding a surprise shift in power.
In early September, the Arabic-language al-Manar daily reported that bin Salman had formed a team of aides to prepare the kingdom for celebrating his succession to power as the new king.
And here is the now deleted Al-Arabiya tweet which PressTV says prematurely revealed details of the ascension ceremony:
|In the next 48 hours we could have a new king in Saudi Arabia.
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