Wall Street Journal: Saudi princes sell their yachts, palaces and paintings to make up for lack of revenue

Ibrahim Darwish

London – “Al Quds Al Arabi”: The Wall Street Journal reports that Saudi princes are now selling their homes, yachts and art collections after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman cut off their financial privileges.
It says in a report prepared by Stephen Kalin that prominent princes are trying to increase their money to avoid censorship of Mohammed bin Salman. She said the Saudi princes had sold a number of real estate, yachts and works of art in the United States, Britain and elsewhere, worth $ 600 million, and since the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia the restrictions on the financial portfolios have sharpened. the very rich royal family. The newspaper adds that the sales represent a change in status and fortune for the prominent princes who used the resources of the oil boom in the seventies and eighties of the last century and turned it into the privileged markets of the world.
The largest amount of money was spent on difficult-to-sell or depleted assets, sometimes as high as 30 million a month, for some princes who had a large entourage, employees and a luxurious life that made them vulnerable to changes in recent government policies . Today, some members of the royal family sell assets abroad to get money after the crown prince dried up many of the money resources they used to continue the excessive spending habit, according to some people close to the princes who are selling out. They need cash to pay regular bills, including property maintenance, tax payments, employee salaries, and parking fees for their planes and boats. Sometimes many of them try to avoid appearing excessive not to attract the attention of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has limited the privileges and amenities of the Al Saud family in the state budget since his father ascended the throne in 2015.
The newspaper says that the Saudi government knows about the sales. “These people do not work, they have wonderful staff, and they are afraid of Prince Mohammed,” said a person familiar with the sales. “The princes want money in their back pockets, not apparent wealth.” Among the assets sold in the recent period are a British estate worth $ 155 million, two yachts more than 200 feet long, and a jewel dating from the Mughal era that the former king at a wedding party as a gift. . The list of princes who sold includes the former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was once one of the most powerful princes of the royal family. “It is clear that they have disciplined them and imposed a clear order on them and they have to live with the situation,” said Saudi historian Robert Lacey. He said the crown prince “has been around for a long time and is reforming things even further.”
A representative of Prince Bandar said he had sold all his assets abroad “because he saw the great benefits of investing in the kingdom and the impressive effort the crown prince is making to create investment opportunities.” Mohammed bin Salman marginalized a number of princes he saw as his rivals, including his uncle and an older cousin, who captured them in 2020, and the benefits thousands of family members received, including paid holidays abroad and electricity bills and water in their palaces. These fringe benefits amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual government spending. Senior princes have amassed billions of dollars annually through oil, real estate and commercial contracts involved by the government that cut the crown prince. The government is campaigning for members of the royal family in other ways and will announce a tax of 2,500 on each domestic worker to the fourth employee, which will cost some princes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. diplomatic cables from the 1990s and leaked by WikiLeaks indicated that some princes make wealth by taking loans from local banks without paying them, controlling common land and exploiting and benefiting from immigrant visas. People familiar with the matter said the princes continued to use these financing methods until Prince Mohammed came to power. But a salary system for thousands of princes, which US diplomatic cables have described as costing the government billions of dollars a year, is in place. A number of princes have adjusted their lifestyles due to the shifts in the world economy and changes within Saudi Arabia and “turn off the tap,” according to the person. Another said “they were living above expectations” and “the expenses are out of this world, but they need time to adjust.” The Ministry of Finance did not respond to questions about the princes’ salaries. There are a few Saudis whose assets were frozen and arrested for a short time in the Ritz Hotel in 2017, in what analysts saw as an attempt to strengthen Prince Mohammed’s position, and which at the time was considered an anti-corruption campaign has been described. Some of them were released after arrangements required them to give up part of their wealth. According to the Anti-Corruption Commission, the process of arresting important symbols has not stopped. Among those detained at the Ritz were the late Prince Turki bin Nasser, the former commander in the air force and one of the Saudi officials investigated by a British body for receiving bribes from BEE to manufacture weapons systems in exchange for lucrative contracts. to provide. Saudi Arabia with fighters and other equipment, while in the eighties of the last century it became known as the Yamama deal. The Saudi princes had no outlet for these contracts under Mohammed bin Salman, and no representative of Prince Turkey’s legacy was reached, and his brother did not respond to questions about the British inquiry. Prince Turkey sold his 203-foot yacht in 2020 and his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, for $ 28.5 million in 2021. He died before completing the home sale transaction. The journalist could not reach his family for comment. The terms of his release from Ritz were not known, and his fortune was previously estimated at $ 3 billion, according to a Saudi official. And there are princes who have sold their assets but have not been arrested, such as Prince Bandar, who in 2021 sold a rural house in West London for $ 155 million. He was once in the middle of power and two of his sons serve as ambassadors to London and Washington. In 2007, the British government halted its investigations into whether it had enriched itself from the al-Yamamah agreement. Prince Bandar denied the sums he received as secret commissions. Bandar is the son of the former Minister of Defense, Prince Sultan, and his family branch was one of the branches whose sources under Mohammed bin Salman refused. Prince Turkey was Prince Sultan’s brother-in-law. Sultan built up his fortune by executing the government for almost half a century as Minister of Defense. Bank data seen by the newspaper revealed that in one year he transferred tens of millions of dollars to proxy accounts in Switzerland and “it stopped 100%,” says one person. Prince Sultan’s heirs sold a mansion in Knightsbridge, London in 2020 for $ 290 million. Prince Khaled bin Sultan, who led coalition forces with Norman Schwartkopf in the 1991 Gulf War, sold his Paris palace next to the Eiffel Tower for $ 87 million in 2020 and a 220-foot-long yacht in 2019. Some are trying to seize their assets pledging to compensate for the lack of income from traditional sources. Gary Hirschman, a specialist in the sale of private property in Beauchamp Estates and who has participated in sales contracts to the Sultan family, says the reason for the new demand for the sale of assets is because they do not care about large properties like their parents prefer not to have money in their hands to spend it. “He wants less looks, it’s fashionable,” he says, noting that some have bought smaller homes.

Leave a Comment