Saudi Arabia’s holdings of U.S. taxpayer debt have finally been revealed after four decades of secrecy.
The U.S. Treasury disclosed that the Middle Eastern country has $116.8 billion in treasury bonds, making it the 13th biggest foreign owner of federal debt, according to a report in USA Today
“Saudi Arabia's holdings fall well behind giants like China and Japan with holdings valued at $1.2 trillion and $1.1 trillion respectively,” the newspaper reports.
The disclosure comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and the oil-rich nation are showing signs of strain. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed controversial legislation
that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue foreign nations if they are found to be responsible for terror attacks on U.S. soil.
One Saudi official in March threatened to sell the country’s holdings of U.S. debt
if those terror-related lawsuits were permitted, the New York Times reported. A censored congressional report allegedly implicates the Saudi government
in the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 terrorist hijackers
"There's something political going on behind the curtains," Marilyn Cohen, CEO of bond management firm Envision Capital Management, told USA Today. “It must have been some sort of political push that may never be disclosed."
The White House opposes the Senate-passed legislation, asserting the bill would leave America vulnerable to similar suits from foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia's central bank has stated it owned nearly of $600 billion in U.S. Treasurys, but that figure may mask indirect holdings through offshore accounts. The Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean known for its business-friendly tax structure, owns $265 billion in U.S. debt, which ranks third ahead of Ireland, USA Today says.
China’s holdings of U.S. debt may be larger than indicated in Treasury disclosures, with some speculation that the Asian country holds debt through accounts registered in countries like the United Kingdom.
Top 10 Holders of U.S. Treasury Debt (billions)
Cayman Islands, $265.0
United Kingdom, $227.6
Hong Kong, $200.3
Saudi Arabia, $116.8
Source: U.S. Treasury Department
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