Saudi Arabia makes further anti-graft arrests: Sources

Saudi Arabia makes further anti-graft arrests: Sources

Saudi Arabia makes further anti-graft arrests: Sources

Saudi Arabian authorities have made further arrests in an anti-corruption crackdown on the kingdom’s political and business elite, sources familiar with the matter said yesterday. 

Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in the purge announced on Nov. 4 and face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.

But the sources, speaking yesterday, said a number of additional individuals suspected of wrongdoing have been detained in a continuation of the crackdown.  A number of those held most recently include individuals with links to the immediate family of the late Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz who died in 2011, the sources said.

Others appear to be lower-level managers and officials, one of the sources said.

Many Saudis have cheered the purge as an attack on the theft of state funds by the rich, and U.S. President Donald Trump said those arrested had been “’milking’ their country for years.”

But some Western officials expressed unease at the possible reaction in the opaque tribal and royal politics of the world’s largest oil exporter. 

Saudi Arabia’s stock market continued to fall in early trade yesterday because of concern about the economic impact of its anti-corruption purge. The Saudi index .TASI was 1.0 percent lower after half an hour of trade. Shares in companies linked to people detained in the investigation slid further.

Late on Nov. 7, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi central bank sought to ease worries about the probe.

They said that while individuals were being targeted and having their bank accounts frozen, national and multinational companies - including those wholly or partly owned by individuals under investigation - would not be disrupted.

Anti-corruption authorities have also frozen the bank accounts of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, one of the most senior members of the ruling Al Saud, and some of his immediate family members, the sources added.

Prince Mohammed, or MbN as he is known, was ousted as Crown Prince in June when King Salman replaced him with the then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man behind the anti-graft drive.

Since Nov. 5, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, one regional banker said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The number of domestic bank accounts frozen as a result of the purge is over 1,700 and rising, up from 1,200 reported on Nov. 7, banking sources said

MbN made his first confirmed public appearance since his ousting at the funeral on Nov. 7 for Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of Asir province, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Nov. 5. No cause has been given for the crash.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 7 roundly rejected reports that Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, a son of the late king Fahd, had been killed in the anti-corruption purge.Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd was rumoured to have been killed in custody or while resisting arrest amid the crackdown at the weekend.The hashtag “death of Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd” has since featured on social media, fuelling fevered speculation online.“There is no truth whatsoever to rumors circulating in media concerning Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd,” an information ministry spokesman said in a statement.The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had urged Saudi Arabia to carry out any prosecution of officials detained in a sweeping crackdown on corruption in a “fair and transparent” manner.   

The U.S. State Department said on Nov. 7 it had urged Saudi Arabia to carry out any prosecution of officials detained in the sweeping crackdown on corruption in a “fair and transparent” manner.   

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States had no advance knowledge of the corruption crackdown that unfolded over the weekend and resulted in the detention of members of the royal family, ministers and investors, including prominent billionaire businessman Alwaleed bin Talal.“We continue to encourage Saudi authorities to pursue the prosecution of people they believe to have been corrupt officials; we expect them to do it in a fair and transparent manner,” Nauert told a briefing. “We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to do that.”