Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been ordering the arrest of family members of a former intelligence official in order to put pressure on him to hand over sensitive documents, Reuters has revealed.
According to four Saudi sources with close knowledge of the situation who spoke to the news agency, the crown prince ordered the arrests of relatives of Saad Al-Jabri with the aim of forcing the former intelligence official to return to Saudi Arabia from Canada where he currently resides in exile.
Having arrested Al-Jabri's adult children, MBS reportedly seeks to obtain documents containing secret information from the exile's time in office when he was a long-time aide to Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef. MBS' cousin, Bin Nayef was the initial heir to the Saudi throne before he was overthrown by the current crown prince in a palace coup in 2017, when MBS arrested and detained him, forcing him to yield the position.
Despite handing over the role of crown prince, Bin Nayef was arrested again in March this year as part of a new crackdown on royals and officials who MBS saw as posing a threat to his power. The sources report Al-Jabri's family said that days after the prince's re-arrest, Al-Jabri's 21-year-old son Omar and 20-year-old daughter Sarah were arrested in a dawn raid on the family in Riyadh, followed by the arrest of Al-Jabri's brother in May.
One of the sources told the news agency: "They have long wanted Jabri as the right-hand man of MBN [Mohammed Bin Nayef]."
The sensitive documents held by the former intelligence official, according to Reuters' sources, contain information which could be used against MBS' political rivals as well as information which could seriously compromise the crown prince and his father, King Salman. They also consist of information of Mohammed Bin Nayef's financial assets abroad, which MBS could then attain and potentially use against the detained prince.
One of the sources, a former Saudi regional security official and diplomat, Al-Jabri also possesses files which detail the financial dealings of senior members of the royal family – including those of King Salman and MBS – which consist of details such as transactions and land deals particularly relation to King Salman's previous four decades as governor of Riyadh.
Since the former Saudi monarch King Abdullah passed away in 2015, his half-brother Salman ascended to the throne and granted his son MBS a significant amount of power within the kingdom. Over the past few years, he has led a series of arrests of senior Saudi royals for the alleged purpose of tackling corruption, as well as launching the Saudi military coalition's disastrous war against the Iran-backed Houthi militia in neighbouring Yemen.
The family of Al-Jabri has sought the help of the United States, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, in hopes that pressure can be put on the kingdom to release the detained family members. US Senators Marco Rubio and Patrick Leahy have spoken with the family, with Leahy's senior foreign poly aide Tim Rieser assuring that the senator has asked for information of their locations and is calling for their release. "It seems that they're being used as hostages to try and coerce their father to return to Saudi Arabia," said Reiser.