Saudi Arabia’s $109B corruption crackdown 'Strongman' move for crown prince ahead of Trump visit
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and President Donald Trump have a lot in common, despite being about 40 years apart age. Both leaders continue to make bold moves that will help define their legacies.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of King Salman and heir to the throne, recently oversaw a country wide corruption crackdown that included 150 high level business leaders, government officials and royals, such as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a large investor in Twitter and one time investor in Citibank.
“It was a strongman decision for the internal leadership of the country and he won that battle hands down” said John Hoffmeister, former Shell Oil president, during an interview on FOX Business’ “Varney & Co”.
It also netted a reported $109 billion for the Kingdom, $9 billion of which was Alwaleed’s penalty, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Last fall, Alwaleed and others ended up in the Saudi’s version of jail – a Ritz Carlton Hotel – and after a reported 83 days - had to pay up to get out.
The now free Alwaleed, in an interview with Bloomberg published this week, wants to clear his name as he continues running his Kingdom Holding company.
“When you are detained, for sure some of the business community, some of the banking community will say they have doubts. That’s my job right now, to interact, to meet with all of them individually or jointly and tell my story” said Alwaleed as quoted in the story. His net worth is $17 billion per Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Billions of those seized funds are likely to be reinvested in the Kingdom which has suffered financially from a drop in oil prices, once their bread and butter. While the Trump administration has yet to endorse the aggressive tactics, both leaders have much in common.
"I think these two gentlemen Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman are going to hit it off and have hit it off and will do well together" added Hoffmeister. When it comes to business acumen, both ave doubled down on shoring up and diversifying their country economies among other issues.
Last October, the Crown Prince announced plans for a futuristic city called “Neom” which will have a business-friendly regulatory regime. "The project today does not have a population so the regulations will be formed in a way that instigates, encourages the businesses," Salam told Maria Bartiromo last October. "This is the first time in the world where the regulations are designed by business people in order to encourage them [and] their businesses." Located on the coast of the Red Sea, the city will span more than 10,000 square miles, and will cost more than $500 billion. The city will also be a “leader in solar,” have self-driving cars and “all kinds of robots,” the prince said.
While Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign has backed one of the biggest tax overhaul campaigns in history, which is bringing more U.S. money and jobs back to America from overseas. Since late last year, now over 4 million Americans are set to receive a pay boost via tax cuts, pay hikes or one-time cash payments. Trump, like the Crown Prince, is also battling the status quo but he’s doing it with pointed tweets, insults and cabinet shake-ups.
The two may also find common ground in the hot bed of the Middle East and enemy of the Saudis: Iran.
“The fact you have the new Saudi leader and American president, by the way, they're 40 years apart in age, if they find some common cause among other things to deal with the Iranian, what I call the imperial Iranian challenge to the Middle East that would be great” said Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Suzanne O’Halloran is Managing Editor of FOXBusiness.com and a graduate of Boston College. Follow her on @suzohalloran