Abdulaziz Saud

Mohammad bin Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz

Fifty-year-old Prince Mohammad is the second son of King Fahd. He is the governor of the oil-rich eastern province, the most visible of his brothers and a secret pretender to the Saudi throne. Simultaneously, he has been involved in more shady business pay-offs at home, moral and business scandals abroad and political negligence than the younger princes of his generation.

Mohammad's qualifications are vague; a high school degree from California. His ascendancy over his older brother Faisal owes more to the latter's lack of character than to Mohammad's talents. Faisal has been disqualified from fatherly attention for indulging in drink and drugs and the writer Peler Theroux (Sandstorm) has accused him to murdering his male lover. Mohammad stepped into the number one spot by default. Pay-offs at home take place through Mohammad's Al Bilad and United Arab Helicopter companies, but Mohammad's business interests were never limited to them. In fact, as we will see, companies were created to deal with huge individual contracts and dissolved after the illegal deal was concluded.

The biggest scandal conducted under the cover of a company of convenience was exposed by the Guardian and Wall Street Journal newspapers in November 1980. A Japanese company called Petrmonde was buying 140.000 barrels of oil a day from ARAMCO at $32 a berrel. However, close examination revealed the following: the company was paying $34.63 a barrel and the differential amounted to $368.000 a day ($135 million a year), the company was not Japanese but London-based and headquartered at the Al Bilad offices and the difference in price was pocketed by Mohammad. Occurring as it did during the Iran-Iraq War, a period of tight oil supplies, the deal infuriated the American oil companies which put pressure on ARAMCO and brought the arrangement to an end. But Mohammad walked away wealthier and though Petromonde disappeared.

A second deal involving Mohammad and Saudi Telecom was an open contract but no less horrific in its scale of corruption. In 1979 international firms were invited to undertake the tripling of the number of Saudi telephone lines from 200.000 to 600.000. The project was so huge, some of the companies transported their offers in pick up trucks, and the value was estimated at somewhere between 6 and 10 billion dollars. The contract was won by a consortium of Philips of Holland, Bell of Canada and Sweden's Erikson and the agent was the Mohammad-owned and operated Al Bilad company. Other contenders for the contract, ITT, Western Electric, Thompson of France and Hitachi, smelt a rat and demanded an investigation. They claimed that their offers were lower and better than those of the winning consortium and tried to reach Mohammad to lodge a protest, but he was not available.

Nor were King Khalid and crown Prince Fahd available to receive American Ambassador William Porter who too tried to protest on behalf of his county's multinationals. Eventually the noise died down, estimates of the Mohammad-Al Bilad commission run as high as 20 per cent or $1.3 billion of the $6.7 billion winning tender. To this day, the maintenance contract for this project, because other contractors have disqualified themselves knowing that they can't win, is with Mohammad and its carries a hefty commission much greater than is acceptable in normal circumstances.

Mohammad's colossal home contracts didn't stop him from misbehaving abroad. Among others, he had established connections with British MP and one time Under Secretary of Defence Jonathan Aitken. The British politician appears to have used Mohammed's Al Bilad London offices free of charge and there have been allegations, so far unrefuted, that Mohammad and Aitken have conspired to sell arms to Singapore which eventually found their way to Iran at a time when such sales were prohibited.

Moreover, in 1981, the News of The World newspaper reported an incident involving Mohammad and a London girl for hire. His Highness appears to have roughed up the girl and escaped to America after she threatened disclosure. This aspect of Mohammad's character is reported to have more to it and a recent television programme has accused Aitken of procuring for Royals and implied that Mohammad was involved.

Most recently, during the Gulf War, Mohammad was accused of realizing hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from housing and feeding American troops sent to Saudi Arabia to protect it against Saddam Hussein. Housing these troops meant building temporary accommodations on public land confiscated by Mohammad specifically for that purpose. Feeding them, ordinarily a simple operation, found some of Mohammad's open or de facto companies charging exorbitant rates to provide them with everyday provision. It is estimated that Mohammad's profits out of this were $28 per soldier, per day, If the number of soldiers was 500.000 then it adds up per diem $14.000.000. If Mohammad's business deals make corrupt financial sense then his political qualifications are totally absent. His first appointment to an official position was as assistant to the Minister of Interior, and there is very little to report about that. Later, in 1985, he was appointed Deputy Governor of the Eastern Province and once again it is impossible to judge a performance by its non-existence. Yet later, in 1989, he was appointed to the important post of governor of the same province.

Perhaps the best way to judge his governance is to review his action in 1995. He spent five months away from his post, in Arizona in the United States with his ailing mother. During that period nothing was done, no one dared make any decisions because everything is in Mohammad's hands. Upon his return, he was confronted with the problem of what to do to implement promises made to the Shias of this province in return for making peace with the house of Saud.

The Situations in the Eastern Province continues to deteriorate, Mohammad shows no interest in the affairs of the state, his business activities continue unabated despite the overall reduction in the oil income of the country and his personal behavior is as abominable as ever. Yet, this is the star among Fahd's sons, the one his father is thinking of making King, supposedly the symbol of a new generation to replace the old discredited one.

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