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Saudi Arabia: 117 charged with corruption, exploiting coronavirus

May 19, 2020 at 3:49 pm

Saudi police cars are parked and policemen stand guard in front of “Al-rajhi mosque” in central Riyadh on March 11, 2011 [FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia has filed a total of 117 administrative and financial corruption cases against those who attempted to exploit government institutions throughout the past month during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The kingdom’s Control and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) filed the staggering number of corruption cases after discovering a series of bribes and clandestine deals made by government officials that broke the authorities’ current laws on battling the spread of the virus.

In one case, three employees in the private sector were found to have bribed some staff members from the Saudi Ministry of Health in order to lease hotels to house individuals who are being quarantined, according to a statement released by Nazaha yesterday.

Another employee in the Ministry of Tourism was also arrested and referred to court for accepting bribes from 13 people on the condition of leasing contracts to several hotels in the port city of Jeddah which the government rented in order to host repatriated citizens during their period of quarantine.

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The bribes undermined joint efforts between the Ministries of Tourism and Health which have been providing hotels and housing throughout the country to Saudi citizens who have recently been repatriated and returned from abroad, requiring them to quarantine for a period of 14 days to prevent the virus from spreading.

Other corruption cases were also caught and referred to court, such as two employees in the General Authority of Zakat and Tax, along with three others, who accepted bribes to reduce the tax bills of certain companies.

Nazaha stated that it will continue to clampdown on those looking to exploit the current situation and the government’s laws for personal or financial gain.

Throughout the months of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has implemented some of the strictest and most restrictive laws in the region to battle against the virus, with lockdowns and curfews being enforced, institutions and mosques closed and harsh penalties being distributed to those who conceal illness, break the quarantine, or spread misinformation.

A 24-hour nationwide curfew has also been enforced for the upcoming Eid holiday.

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