Mohammed bin Salman: Saudi Arabia is ‘open for business’ following corruption crackdown, prince tells wary investors

Bethan McKernan
Since his father became king in 2015 Mohammed bin Salman has risen to control Saudi Arabia's economy, defence, internal security, social reforms and foreign policy strategy: AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince is trying to reassure investors the country is open and ready for business after the release of several high profile figures arrested in November’s anti-corruption crackdown.

More than 300 people, among them royals, politicians and business leaders, were detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of an unprecedented operation three months ago.

The move, widely viewed as part of newly appointed heir the throne Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to consolidate his power, sent shock waves through stock markets all over the world.

Both Saudi Arabia’s government and private sectors are riddled with corruption. However, the secretive nature of the arrests and concerns over political motivations - have worried business leaders.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that MbS, as he is known, met with several senior business figures last month to reassure them that the crackdown was almost over, according to five Saudi and Western sources either present at meetings or who had spoken to people who attended.

MbS and other officials repeatedly said no more mass detentions were planned, according to one of the sources, and business and investments should continue as normal.

MbS is the driving force behind the country’s “Vision 2030”, a long-term economic plan to wean the Kingdom off its dependence on oil.

It is understood the $100bn (£72m) raised in financial settlements made in exchange for the Ritz-Carlton detainees’ freedom will be used for some of MbS’ ambitious development plans such as Neom, a new tech hub planned for Saudi Arabia’s northwestern desert.

Representatives of the government in Riyadh did not respond to requests for comment.