Saudi Arabia just introduced a 70% wealth tax. It did so in a most original way…
As we noted shortly after the Crown Prince’s purge of potential rivals within Saudi Arabia’s sprawling ruling family, while the dozens of arrests were made under the pretext of an “anti-corruption crackdown”, Mohammed bin Salman’s ulterior motive was something else entirely: Replenishing the Kingdom’s depleted foreign reserves, which have been hammered for the past three years by low oil prices, with some estimating that the current purge could potentially bring in up to $800 billion in proceeds.
Furthermore, the geopolitical turmoil unleashed by the unprecedented crackdown helped push oil prices higher, creating an ancillary benefit for both the kingdom’s rulers and the upcoming IPO of Aramco.
And, in the latest confirmation that the crackdown was all about cash, the Financial Times reports today that the Saudi government has offered the new occupants of the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton a way out…. and it’s going to cost them: In some cases, as much as 70% of their net worth.
Saudi authorities are negotiating settlements with princes and businessmen held over allegations of corruption, offering deals for the detainees to pay for their freedom, people briefed on the discussions say.
In some cases the government is seeking to appropriate as much as 70 per cent of suspects’ wealth, two of the people said, in a bid to channel hundreds of billions of dollars into depleted state coffers.
The arrangements, which have already seen some assets and funds handed over to the state, provide an insight into the strategy behind Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s dramatic corruption purge.
The crackdown has led to the detention of hundreds of royals, ministers, officals and the country’s richest oligarchs including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire, Waleed al-Ibrahim, the founder of Middle East Broadcasting Center, which owns Al Arabiya, the Saudi satellite television channel, and Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin construction group and brother of Osama bin Laden.
Additionally, as we reported, the crackdown sent members of the country’s wealthy upper crust scrambling to liquidate their holdings and move their cash offshore, where they might have a better chance of keeping it away from the Saudi government.
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