The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died in January 2015 but it seems we may be about to learn a great deal more about his legacy than the House of Saud would wish to be known.
I’m guessing a little story like the fact that King Felipe of Spain has renounced his inheritance over certain questionable financial practices while his father, Juan Carlos, was king might fly in under the radar at a time when the whole world seems to be grappling with the threat of Corona Virus but I do think it’s worth paying attention to this story when you consider the reason why. Incidentally, Felipe has also announced that he will strip Juan Carlos of his annual stipend.
Swiss prosecutors, have been investigating an offshore account, allegedly operated for Juan Carlos and have discovered that he received what they believe to be £80m in kickback payments from the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2008, when Juan Carlos was on the throne.
King Abdullah subscribed to an ultra-conservative Sunni Wahhabist version of Islam and was considered by many as a ruthless dictator who condoned torture and public executions. Under Abdullah’s reign, Saudi law followed a strict Wahhabist interpretation of Sharia law which prescribed amputation of hands, flogging and public beheading as forms of punishment. Other variations of Islam were not tolerated and the Saudi police would arrest anyone who protested against government discrimination. Critics of the Saudi government were also banned from travelling.
Abdullah had close ties with the US throughout his reign and even before he became King. He met with Gerald Ford in 1976, then George Bush senior in 1987, then Clinton in 1998. He also met George Bush Jnr twice – once in 2002 (just a few months after the attack on the World Trade Center) and then again in 2005. Obama met King Abdullah 3 times, once at a summit for world leaders in 2009 and then in June 2009 King Abdullah hosted President Obama in Saudi Arabia and Obama returned the favour and hosted Abdullah at the White House.
In October 2007, King Abdullah was also welcomed on a state visit by Gordon Brown’s government but was greeted by protesters who were angry over the treatment of women and homosexuals by the Saudi government and the use of murder and torture in the country. Protesters were also unhappy about allegations that had surfaced over possible bribes that had been paid to secure an arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the UK.
King Abdullah had 30 wives and at least 35 children. However, when some of his daughters decided to protest about women’s rights, they were locked up, threatened, tortured and abused. This 2014 short piece by Channel 4 reported that the girls had already been locked up for 13yrs. Despite Abdullah’s death in Jan 2015, there appears to have been no further reports on the whereabouts or welfare of the 4 princesses and world governments seem to have been happy to turn a blind eye to the inconvenient truth, which is probably why we continue to hear about royal princesses getting abducted and put under ‘house arrest’ by various Arab rulers.
King Abdullah managed to retain close ties with western governments for decades, despite his clear disregard for human rights. He claimed to champion the cause of fighting terrorism and would frequently call on western allies to attack other Arab neighbours (such as Iraq and Iran) for harboring terrorists. Ironically, of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, fifteen were Saudi Arabian but despite the facts, Crown Prince Abdullah was invited on a state visit to the US and met with President George W. Bush just 8 months after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Why would world leaders turn a blind eye to human rights abuses and home grown terrorism in Saudi Arabia and why would they invite Abdullah on state visits and sell weapons to the Saudis? Perhaps the fact that, in 2011, Forbes estimated King Abdullah and his immediate family’s wealth at US$21 billion, might have just a little bit to do with it? An £80m kickback to the King of Spain would seem such a paltry amount under the circumstances and perhaps Saudi wealth has a bigger impact on global economies than we might appreciate?