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The price of freedom for Saudi Arabia's richest man

Posted December. 26, 2017 08:32,   

Updated December. 26, 2017 08:56

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Saudi Arabia's richest man, Prince al-Waleed Bin Talal, who was arrested last month in an anti-corruption purge, is reportedly discussing about the release by paying at least 6 billion U.S. dollars (about 6.5 trillion won) with the Saudi authorities. He was arrested on Nov. 4 by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (age 32), the first in line to the throne, with 10 other princes, and is currently detained in a five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.

Some people might be envious for such detainment, but it would be a severe pain for an extremely wealthy person with an estimated fortune of 18.7 billion dollars (20 trillion won). The value of Kingdom Holdings, which he has large shares in Twitter and Euro Disney, is about 8.7 billion dollars (9.4 trillion won). Even though the aggregated value of listed stocks of 2 billion dollars (2.3 trillion won) disappeared into thin air due to the concerns of investors after his arrest, the value is still high. Crown Prince Bin Salman has been telling arrested royals to choose to either pay 70 percent of their fortunes in possession, or receive legal punishments. Six billion dollars amounts to 70 percent of the value of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holdings.

Saudi Arabia has been keeping “succession to a brother” since its establishment in 1932. This follows the tradition of the Arab, which is for king’s grown-up brother, rather than king’s son, to sort things out in a situation of sudden change, such as king’s sudden death. But as the throne moved horizontally, king’s age has grown older. Salman, the 7th king who was crowned at the age of 80 in 2015, designated his eldest nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as the 1st crown prince, and his biological son Prince bin Salman as the 2nd crown prince. But when Prince bin Nayef received a message saying “come to the royal palace” in June 2017, his position as the 1st crown prince was taken away by his cousin, who is 30 years younger than he is, and was put into a house arrest. This was “the First Rebellion of the Prince.”

In early November, Prince bin Salman took over the army and the information agency first, and practiced “the Second Rebellion of the Prince,” in which he mobilized the elite forces to arrest his older cousin princes, his potential political enemies, on charges of corruption. Prince bin Salman reportedly enjoyed reading “The Art of War” when he was young, and he is coming up with open and reforming actions in non-political areas, such as allowing driving for women. Many dictators used to adopt tactics of maintaining the power by bloody purge on one side, and waving gently to the people on the other side.