Saudi king swears in new ministers, replacing those detained

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi King Salman on Monday swore in new officials to take over from a powerful prince and former minister believed to be detained in a large-scale sweep that has shocked the country and upended longstanding traditions within the ruling family.

The official Saudi Press Agency released images of the king swearing in new National Guard chief Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin and new Economy and Planning Minister Mohammad al-Tuwaijri.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for the past four years had led the National Guard, and Adel Fakeih, who was minister of economy since April, were both reportedly arrested as part of a purported anti-corruption probe led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne, though he has not been thought of recently as a challenger to Prince Mohammed.

The arrests began late Saturday. Eleven princes and 38 officials and businessmen are reportedly being held at five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh.

The king was also pictured meeting Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister, Saad Hariri, who unexpectedly resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia. The photos of their meeting did little to quiet speculation over his surprising move and current status. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, Hariri’s top political rival at home, argued on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri to resign amid the deepening Saudi-Iran rivalry and questioned whether Saudi Arabia had also detained him in the sweep.

The highest-profile royal caught in the sweep is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an outspoken billionaire royal with investments in Western companies. The company he chairs sought to reassure investors after its stock plunged following his arrest.

CEO Talal al-Maiman said staff at the company, which manages more than $12.5 billion of investments around the world, are “focused on their unwavering responsibilities to KHC’s shareholders and stakeholders.”Kingdom Holding Co. said in a statement Monday that it maintains the government’s “vote of confidence” as it pursues its investment strategy and global business operations. The company has investments in Twitter, Apple, Lyft, Citigroup and hotel chains like the Four Seasons, Movenpick and Fairmont.

“We are pleased to play a role in the continuing growth of Saudi Arabia and to strengthen the economy for the benefit of all,” al-Maiman said.

The company, which lost 7.5 percent in trading Sunday, made no reference its chairman’s arrest.

A statement by the attorney general’s office said that no assets of any suspects have yet been frozen. However, the government has refused to confirm the arrests outright or name those detained, who are reportedly banned from traveling for the duration of the investigations.

Saudi Twitter accounts released several other names of those arrested, including Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, a former finance minister, and Bakr Binladin, head of the Saudi Binladin Group, a major business conglomerate.

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