The Washington Post said that a grim new chapter in the Saudi “Game of Thrones” battle for control of the kingdom appears to be underway, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares corruption and disloyalty charges against his predecessor and onetime rival, former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef — a man who was once the United States’ champion in the war against Islamist terrorism.
The American newspaper quoted Saudi and U.S. sources say that MBS’s anti-corruption committee is nearing completion of a detailed investigation of allegations that MBN improperly diverted billions of Saudi riyals through a network of front companies and private accounts while he was running Saudi counterterrorism programs at the Interior Ministry.
“MBN served there as chief assistant to his father, Prince Nayef, and then succeeded him as minister from 2012 to 2017. An associate of MBN’s said Saudi investigators have demanded that he repay $15 billion they claim he stole, though it isn’t clear how they reached that number. The associate, like some others contacted for this article, requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“MBN’s supporters say these charges are false — and are contradicted by a 2007 royal decree from King Abdullah that authorized all of MBN’s activities and provided for a detailed annual report on his spending.
“Internal Saudi documents provided by an associate of MBN’s and reviewed by The Post support MBN’s contention that his secret financial activities were approved, at least in broad outlines, by the late king.
“The internal Saudi documents provided by bin Nayef’s aide, and reviewed by the American newspaper, support what Bin Nayef confirms that his secret financial activities were approved, at least in their broad outlines, by the late king.
“A Saudi official who has worked closely with MBS on the investigation of MBN didn’t respond to two text messages requesting comment. A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“John Brennan, a former CIA director who worked closely with MBN for more than a decade, explained in an interview: ‘The Interior Ministry was provided with a budget so they could build up capabilities, recruit personnel and develop intelligence service contacts to penetrate al-Qaeda. … Abdullah’s view was that he had to be invested in the activities that MBN was leading. MBN was one of his favorites.’
“Brennan addressed the allegation, made to me by Saudis who are close to MBS, that MBN had skimmed money from intelligence accounts. ‘Over the course of my interaction with MBN, he wasn’t someone I thought was engaged in corrupt activity or was siphoning off money,’ Brennan said.
Bin Salman led a white coup against his cousin, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, in June 2017, and stripped him of all his posts, before he was forced into house arrest despite bin Nayef’s ties to American institutions and departments, which were strengthened after his leadership of the war on al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia after the events of September 11, 2001.
Bin arrested the rest of his rival princes, and confiscated their wealth according to financial settlements after accusing them of corruption, in what was known as the “Ritz-Carlton” campaign in November 2017.
On March 6, the Saudi authorities launched a campaign of arrests against a number of princes of the ruling family, including the brother of the Saudi monarch, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and Muhammad bin Nayef, in addition to his nephew, former Minister of Interior Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nayef, and his father, the governor of the eastern region Prince Saud bin Nayef.