Saudi Arabia’s senior princes have sold more than $600 million worth of real estate, yachts, and artwork, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday. The newspaper claims the royals are attempting to raise cash and avoid scrutiny from de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
People close to the princes told the WSJ that some members of the royal family were selling assets abroad to generate cash to pay routine bills, including property maintenance, taxes, staff salaries, and parking fees for their planes and ships. This reportedly happened after MBS dried up many of the sources of money they had used to support their extraordinary spending habits.
The 36-year-old crown prince has cut benefits for thousands of royals, including electricity bills and water in their Saudi palaces. Such benefits had amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual costs to the Saudi government. Spending by some of those royals reached $30 million a month, the sources said.
“These people do not work; they have a lot of staff and they are afraid of [Prince Mohammad],” a person familiar with the transactions told the WSJ. The princes want “cash in their back pocket and no visible wealth.”
Among the assets recently sold were a $155 million British estate, two yachts over 200 feet long, and Mughal jewelry given as wedding gifts by a late king, the sources said. They also cited a mansion in London’s Knightsbridge neighborhood, sold by Saudi royals in 2020 for a record $290 million, and a Paris mansion next to the Eiffel Tower, sold for more than $87 million.
“They had a standard of living that exceeded any expectations,” a person familiar with the transactions was quoted as saying. “The expense is out of this world. It takes time for them to adjust.”
Top royals amassed billions of dollars a year through oil and real estate sales, as well as business deals involving the government, from which Prince Mohammed has gradually pushed them away.
Some of the Saudis currently liquidating assets were reportedly among those temporarily detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2017. The crown prince, who called that shakedown an anti-corruption campaign and “shock therapy,” has declared it a lucrative success. Hundreds of people, including businessmen, officials, and 17 princes have been arrested as part of the purge, which reportedly aimed to recoup as much as $100 billion from them. Saudi authorities constrained post-prison life for many of those targeted with travel bans and heightened surveillance within the country.
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