Saudi Arabia detains more than 200 in anti-corruption crackdown

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The number of people detained during Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on corruption has risen to more than 200, officials confirmed on Thursday, saying that more than $100 billion was misused through years of corruption and embezzlement.

Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, the kingdom’s attorney general, said that 208 people have been detained since Saturday, including seven people who have been released without charge. He said the personal bank accounts of those detained have been frozen as part of the investigation.

“The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large,” Al Mojeb said in a statement. “Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.”

Dozens of royal family members, government officials and business executives have been detained during the purge, which began on Saturday. Those arrested include billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the son of the former king.

Some observers have accused Crown Prince Mohammed of using the purge to consolidate his power, while others say the heir to the throne is on a path to reform. Regardless, the mass arrests have rattled the region.

“The evidence for this wrongdoing is very strong, and confirms the original suspicions which led the Saudi Arabian authorities to begin the investigation in the first place,” Al Mojeb said on Thursday, adding that the investigation by the anti-corruption committee is proceeding quickly.

Authorities have not released a full list of suspects, or the charges they are facing. “In order to ensure that the individuals continue to enjoy the full legal rights afforded to them under Saudi law, we will not be revealing any more personal details at this time,” Al Mojeb said.

The Saudi government has insisted that normal commercial activity within the kingdom has not been affected by the anti-corruption crackdown. “Only personal bank accounts have been suspended. Companies and banks are free to continue with transactions as usual,” Al Mojeb said.

Crown Prince Mohammed said on Saturday that no one will be spared during the crackdown.

“I assure you, anyone involved in corruption will not be spared, whether he’s a minister or a prince or anyone,” he said in an interview. “Anyone who’s guilty of corruption will be held accountable, provided there’s evidence.”

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