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Mohammed bin Salman suggests he is more Mother Theresa 'than Gandhi' in CBS interview Open in fullscreen

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Mohammed bin Salman suggests he is more Mother Theresa 'than Gandhi' in CBS interview

Mohammed bin Salman speaking to CBS from his palace in Riyadh [CBS/Screen grab]

Date of publication: 19 March, 2018

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In his first American television interview ahead of a major tour to the US, Saudi Arabia's de-facto king Mohammed bin Salman has boasted of his wealth and magnanimity.
In his first interview with an American television ahead of a major tour to the US, Saudi Arabia's de-facto king Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has boasted of his wealth and immense magnanimity, saying he was no Gandhi, in reference to the Indian independence hero known for his ascetic lifestyle.

The pre-recorded interview with CBS' 60 Minutes aired on Sunday night, two days before the 32-year-old crown prince is due to touch down in Washington DC for talks with his ally President Donald Trump.

Despite calling himself "new sheriff in town" - in reference to his alleged anti-corruption drive - MbS told 60 Minutes' Norah O'Donnell that his half-a-billion-dollar yacht, French chateau, and reported 9-figure purchase of a Da Vinci painting were his own business. 

"My personal life is something I'd like to keep to myself and I don't try to draw attention to it. If some newspapers want to point something out about it, that's up to them. As far as my private expenses, I'm a rich person and not a poor person," he said.

"I'm not [Mahatma] Gandhi or [Nelson] Mandela. I'm a member of the ruling family... We own very large lots of land," he added.

But MbS hastened to highlight his generosity.

"I... spend part of my personal income on charity. I spend at least 51 percent on people and 49 on myself," he claimed.

In November the young prince launched a shakedown of leading Saudi royals and business leaders, which helped consolidate his grip on power and retrieve billions in funds for Saudi coffers.

Hundreds were jailed at a luxury-hotel-turned-prison in Riyadh during the purge that began in November. The majority were released after agreeing to hand over $100 billion.

"The amount exceeds $100 billion, but the real objective was... to punish the corrupt and send a clear signal that whoever engages in corrupt deals will face the law," bin Salman said.

Last week, Human Rights Watch called on Riyadh to investigate claims that it mistreated and coerced the jailed royals and business leaders, including a Saudi army officer who allegely died in custody.

Bin Salman described himself as a "hard worker" - even suggesting he was workaholic. Although he admitted he did not show up at his office until the afternoon, he claimed to do most of his work in the morning at the Irgah Palace.

"I'm sorry if it's a little bit lousy," MbS said in English, in reference to his palace-office. 

"I come here, at, like afternoon till late night."

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