Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman reportedly extracted $100 billion late last year from a group of dozens of Saudi royals and businessmen – many of whom were his own cousins – in a “corruption crackdown” that had all the makings of a naked cash grab.
After confining his countrymen to the Ritz Carlton Riyadh for months – even torturing some of those who initially refused to cooperate – the Prince won plaudits from the New York Times, but has been vilified elsewhere for his willingness to commit egregious human rights abuses – all to fill a hole in the Saudi budget.
Given the Saudi government’s reticence about the crackdown, it’s impossible to tell how much money was taken from each individual prisoner, making external evaluations of their post-crackdown wealth nearly impossible.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Forbes Magazine has decided to exclude all Saudi Arabian businessmen from this year’s list of the world’s 100 richest people. Last year, 10 Saudi nationals made the cut.
Out of the 10 Saudi billionaires who made the Forbes list last year, at least four were detained – the most recognizable being Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, pictured above, whose net worth last year was close to $20 billion.
As Forbes explains, given the Saudi government’s reticence, it’s impossible to tell how much money and assets were expropriated from each individual businessman.
Alwaleed and many others have been released, but checking out of the Ritz-Carlton cost billions. (Sources also told Forbes that Alwaleed is now banned from granting media interviews.) The Saudi government’s reported goal was to gather $100 billion to plug a hole in the budget that’s been growing amid years of low oil prices.
There are a thousand and one stories about what precisely happened, making it impossible to know definitively who gave how much to whom when. Forbes learned that at least one tycoon who was not detained handed over assets to the government.
Given these shifting sands of truth, we’ve chosen to leave all ten Saudis off our billionaires list this year; none would comment. With greater clarity regarding their wealth, some might eventually return to the ranking.
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Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Chairs publicly traded Kingdom Holding, which has investments in Lyft, Twitter, Citigroup and the Four Seasons.
Mohammed Al Amoudi
Assets include a Swedish refinery, Saudi gas stations and an Ethiopian conglomerate (gold mining, farming, construction).
Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer
His publicly traded Almarai dairy company is among the largest in the Middle East.
Mohammed Al Issa
His Assila Investments has stakes in a bank, a food processor and hotels.
Founded Dallah Albaraka conglomerate (real estate, food, health care).
Abdullah Al Rajhi
With brothers, built Al Rajhi Bank, one of world’s largest Islamic banks.
Abdul Majeed Alhokair
The three brothers’ real estate empire includes 19 shopping malls.
Real estate investor.