In October 2017, over 500 Saudi royals, ministers and businessmen were arrested over ill-gotten wealth in what was meant to be an anti-corruption drive.
The main purpose of the historic purge, as per its architect, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, was to prosecute individuals who were using government connections to enrich themselves.
However, a recent investigation by Wall Street Journal suggests MBS, himself, might have used government influence to accumulate his fabulous wealth.
As it turns out, by local Saudi standards, MBS wasn't always wealthy. It took him several years and various deals and business ventures to become as rich as he is right now. [He is believed to be the owner of the world's priciest home in France.]
While the report highlights various shady deals, one, in particular, remains the highlight of the crown prince's rags-to-riches story.
In 2015, European behemoth Airbus landed a Saudi Arabia deal worth billions of dollars. The WSJ found, after reviewing documents, MBS played an important part in brokering the agreement.
The deal was established using another company, Tharawat Holding Co., as an intermediary.
It is important to note that Tharawat is headed by Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud's younger full brother Turki bin Salman Al Saud. He is the chairman of the Riyadh-based company, which is a principal Saudi investment firm.
As mentioned above, the involvement of Saudi royalty played a huge role in the agreement.
"Others with a stake in the deal were thrilled by the involvement of a Saudi prince. “We took it as a good thing that there were people with deep pockets and political connections that we thought would make this transaction happen,' says one of those people, who says he considered the princes' involvement “a good risk mitigator” for investors," the WSJ reports.
And this is just one case study of how MBS could be using his political standing in Saudi Arabia to benefit family businesses.
Together with the share that he receives from the country's oil income, his wealth amounts to untold billions of dollars.
"The story of the Airbus deal suggests this mixing of business and government remains a staple of the Saudi economy, despite the crown prince’s highly publicized crackdown on many other royals who the prince said abused their power to get rich," the investigation concludes.
And MBS is well aware of the widespread suspicion over his astounding wealth. He just doesn't care much about it.
“My personal life is something that I’d like to keep to myself,” he said during a 60 Minutes interview in March. “As far as my private expenses — I’m a rich person, not a poor person.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters