Jordanian businessman Sabih al-Masri detained in Saudi Arabia over 'King Abdullah's Jerusalem stance'

Jordanian businessman Sabih al-Masri detained in Saudi Arabia over 'King Abdullah's Jerusalem stance'
Jordan's best-known businessman Sabih al-Masri and head of the influential Arab Bank has been held in Saudi Arabia, allegedly over King Abdullah vocal anti-Israel stance following the US' Jerusalem move.
3 min read
16 December, 2017
Masri heads the Amman headquartered Arab Bank [AFP]

One of Jordan's best-known businessmen has been detained in Saudi Arabia, as he was travelling back to Amman on Tuesday.

Billionaire Sabih al-Masri was detained for questioning during a brief business trip to Saudi Arabia this week, Reuters reported.

The Jordanian-Palestinian head of the influential Arab Bank - who also holds Saudi citizenship - was on his way to Riyadh airport when he received a phone call telling him to wait where he was.

"Masri was heading to the airport and they told him to stay where you are and they picked him up," a source told Reuters.

Gone missing

Little has been heard from his the Arab Bank chairman since, although al-Rai al-Youm reported he was held for "information related to corruption".

Sources told Reuters his detention was related to his business interests.

"He has been answering questions about his business and partners," a source said.

Masri had already been warned by associates not to travel to Saudi Arabia following a purge led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against leading royals and businessmen.

So this is massive sign that Saudi Arabia is sending to Jordan, that 'we are prepared to rattle your whole economic structure.

Sources said he might have been detained to pressure Jordan's King Abdullah II not to attend a Muslim summit in Istanbul, which was set up for leaders to agree a response to the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

King Abdullah is the custodian of the Muslim shrines in Jerusalem - the third holiest city in Islam - and appears to be deeply embarrassed by the decision of President Donald Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Huge protests have been held in Amman - where there is a large Palestinian population - against the move and King Abdullah has been more vocal in his criticism of Trump's decision than Gulf partners.

Jordanian lawmakers have also voted to review its peace deal with Israel.

Saudi Arabia has been more nuanced in its response and bin Salman is believed to have retained his close ties with the president and his associates.


There have been rumours in Amman that the king's decision to stand with the Palestinian Authority on the issue has put Jordan on a collision course with traditional Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Gulf powers have been reportedly pressuring the Jordanian leader to accept a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal put forward by the US.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have allegedly threatened economic retaliation against Jordan, unless it agrees to the deal.

Masri - from one of Palestine's biggest families - owns some of Jordan's biggest businesses and richest land in the country. He is a huge investor in the Palestinian territories and the founder of the Saudi Astra Group.

Leading political commentator Rami Khouri told agreed that the arrest of Masri could be related to Jordan's stance on Palestine.

"The Jordanian government, when it needs money, turns to the Arab Bank to get some advances," Khouri Al Jazeera.

"So this is massive sign that Saudi Arabia is sending to Jordan, that 'we are prepared to rattle your whole economic structure.'"