The purge to root out corruption in Saudi Arabia is also a drive to eliminate any opposition to the royal rulers.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, 32, is the power behind the throne of King Salman.
He seems determined to take on the country’s rich and powerful establishment to drag Saudi Arabia kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The prince is the king’s nominated successor and represents a new breed of ruler in the 85-year-old country.
In an ultra-conservative nation where clerics are powerful figures making pronouncements based on medieval religious teachings, the prince has dared to challenge the establishment.
Milking the economy
Saudi Arabia is the richest country in the Middle East and sits atop billions of dollars of oil reserves. For years, the royal families ruling the nation have been accused of milking the economy and diverting funds into their own pockets.
The attorney general describes the current round of arrests as ‘phase one’ of a campaign to take down the crooked businessmen and entrepreneurs.
An anti-corruption body led by the crown prince ordered the detentions of 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers, while assets totalling $800 million have been seized.
“A great deal of evidence has already been gathered, and detailed questioning has taken place,” said an official statement.
“All those suspected to date, will have full access to legal resources, and the trials will be held in a timely and open manner for all concerned.”
Addiction to oil
Prince Salman wants to move his country away from what he calls an ‘addiction to oil’ to a wider market economy.
He has the support of many younger Saudis who see a rich aristocracy profiting from their hard work in return for little.
The prince is also loosening the country’s strict religious code based on a Wahhabi version of the Sunni Muslim faith.
He has banned gender separation by allowing women into stadiums, concerts and cinemas. He has also given women the right to drive without first seeking permission from their fathers or husbands.
One huge change has been the virtual disbandment of religious police, who have lost their autonomy and power to arrest in an assimilation into the general police.