Saudi Private Jet Industry Stalls After Corruption Crackdown

Posted on Posted inMiddle East

The anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 has won widespread approval among ordinary Saudis–the state has collected more than $13.33 billion so far from settlements reached under the crackdown, and aims to seize more than $100 billion in total in either cash or assets.

DUBAI — A crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia has severely dented the kingdom’s private jet industry in a sign of the impact the campaign has had on private enterprise and the wealthy elite.

Dozens of planes, owned by individuals and charter companies and worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are stranded at airports across the kingdom including Riyadh and Jeddah, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Some were handed over to the state in settlements reached after the crackdown was launched in late 2017, when dozens of princes, businessmen and government officials were detained, they said.

Others belong to Saudis who either face travel bans or are reluctant to fly the planes because they are wary of displays of wealth that might be seen as taunting the government over the anti-corruption campaign, two of the sources said.

The idle aircraft, which one of the sources estimated at up to about 70, include Bombardier and Gulfstream jets, the sources said. There are also larger Airbus and Boeing aircraft that are more commonly associated with commercial airlines but are often used in the Middle East as private jets.

Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan, said last month the state had collected more than 50 billion riyals ($13.33 billion) from settlements reached under the crackdown.

Most of the detainees held at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel in November 2017 were released after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government, which said it aims to seize more than $100 billion in total in either cash or assets.

Two sources told Reuters the government could absorb the aircraft into existing fleets used by ministries and state-owned corporations. A third source said the government had been looking to set up its own private jet company made up entirely of seized aircraft.

The anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 has won widespread approval among ordinary Saudis, partly because the government has said it will use some of the funds to finance social benefits.

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