Saudi Arabia Arrests Princes, Cabinet Members in Crackdown

State Media Describes Effort as Part of Corruption Probe

Saudi Arabia has had a few royal shakeups in the past year, setting the stage for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ultimate ascension to the throne. The purge, however, is mounting, with a stunning number of arrests over the weekend.

Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton was emptied to serve as a prison for royal family members

In what the state media is describing as a “corruption probe,” the Saudis have arrested a massive number of high-ranking officials, including 11 princes, four cabinet ministers, and dozens of other members of the royal family.

Being arrested as a random criminal in Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly the same as being a detained royal. Instead of prison, the royals and top officials are being held in luxury hotels around the capital of Riyadh.

Among the detained are Prince Mitel bin Abdullah, who was once seen as a contender for the crown, and the head of the national guard. Multi-billionaire Alaweed bin Talal was also detained, as are many of Mohammed bin Salman’s relatives, who were seen as potential threats to him when he becomes king.

It’s expected that there will be more arrests coming, as in addition to the arrests, the Saudis have closed the airport for private planes, preventing the wealthy and powerful from escaping the country for the time being.

Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince in June. The shakeup was widely expected, with the previous crown prince in failing health. King Salman’s own health has been in question for years, and the transition to the next generation of royals is seen as a very destabilizing event.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.