Saudi Arabia’s ruling royal family has a net worth of about $1.4 trillion, which is 16 times more than that of the British royal family. The family is renowned for maintaining an enviable lifestyle, which has come under severe criticism on several occasions for being wastefully extravagant and full of pomposity.
A recent report by the Guardian revealed that the British government approved payments of up to £60m to a future king of Saudi Arabia, his son and other high-ranking officials as part of a huge arms deal and then sought to conceal them in what it described as a “deniable fiddle”.
Opening the defence of one of two men accused of corruption in the arms deal, Ian Winter QC told Southwark crown court that some of the payments were made to the then Prince Abdullah, who later became the Saudi monarch for a decade.
Winter also told the court that internal documents recorded that the British government and Abdullah organised “a deniable fiddle” to hide the payments.
The QC also alleged that the British government ensured payments continued to be paid to high-ranking Saudis until 2020 – eight years after the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into the same payments.
The National also revealed that Democratic Senators demand a criminal investigation into Jared Kushner getting a $2billion investment from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman six months after leaving the White House.
US Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren said that the Department of Justice should ‘take a hard look’ at whether Jared Kushner violated any criminal laws in accepting a $2 billion investment from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Six months after Kushner left the White House, his newly formed private equity firm Affinity Partners secured a $2 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund, according to a New York Times report.
These were not the first or last newly revealed multibillion deals which confirm corruption in the Saudi royal family.
The Al Yamamah series of arms deals with Saudi Arabia was, and remains, Britain’s biggest arms deal ever concluded, earning the prime contractor, BAE Systems, at least GBP 43 billion in revenue between 1985 and 2007, with further deals still ongoing.
In 1985, the UK and Saudi governments signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding, that led to a series of contracts for combat aircraft and a variety of other military equipment and support services over the period 1985-93.
A major follow-up deal, Al Salam, was concluded in 2003. Allegations of corruption surfaced almost immediately, but investigations were thwarted until a large cache of documents was leaked in the early 2000s.
An investigation by the UK government’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) uncovered ‘commission’ payments, or bribes, totalling as much as GBP 6 billion paid by BAE Systems to members of the Saudi royal family and others. A key recipient of these payments, including over GBP 1 billion, was Prince Bandar bin Sultan, son of the Saudi Crown Prince. However, the SFO investigation was shut down by the British government in 2006, under heavy pressure from the Saudis.
With the controversial elevation of Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) to the position of the crown prince, the past few years have been rocky for the family. MBS arrested several of his family members, including his first cousins, in what appears to be a power struggle playing out along the margins of cruelty and cajolery mirroring the fictional book and TV series Game of Thrones.
But the culture of extravagant and reckless spending thrives amidst the politics of ambition and vengeance. From spending hundreds of millions on lavish luxuries such as superyachts and private jets to fuelling wars in the Middle East