Saudi Arabia’s attorney-general said today that 208 people have been called in for questioning in a sweeping anti-corruption investigation, and seven of them had been released without charge.
“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,” Sheikh Saud Al-Mojeb said in a statement.
He repeated statements by other top officials that normal commercial activity had not been affected by the crackdown, and that only personal bank accounts had been frozen, not corporate accounts. “Companies and banks are free to continue with transactions as usual.”
Eleven princes were amongst scores of people arrested as part of a crackdown in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, which has consolidated Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s power while alarming much of the traditional business establishment.
A no-fly list was drawn up, as a result of the arrests, and security forces in some Saudi airports were barring owners of private jets from taking off without a permit, pan-Arab daily Al-Asharq Al-Awsat said. It is thought that in total 500 people have been detained as a result of Saudi’s “anti-corruption” drive.
The allegations against the men include money laundering, bribery, extortion and taking advantage of public office for personal gain, a Saudi official told Reuters.
A royal decree on Saturday said the crackdown was launched in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly accrue money”.
The new anti-corruption committee has the power to seize assets at home and abroad before the results of its investigations are known.