Saudi authorities widen anti-corruption dragnet

Saudi authorities widen anti-corruption dragnet
Saudi authorities widen anti-corruption dragnet

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The cases are related to fraud, bribery and financial and professional corruption, SPA reported.

Cars drive past the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)

RIYADH--Saudi Arabia’s Control and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) initiated 218 corruption cases in different government sectors, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). 

The cases are related to fraud, bribery and financial and professional corruption, SPA reported, citing a Nazaha official who said “the kingdom will continue to pursue cases of misappropriation of public money and harming state interests.”

In one of the cases, a businessman and 10 people in the Eastern Province were arrested.

According to reports, the case involves a current member of the Shura Council, a former judge, a current notary, a former bank employee, a former district police chief, a former customs director for an airport and a number of retired officers.

The businessman, who was involved in money laundering and fraud cases, bribed the 10 individuals during their period of services to the tune of more than $5,333.

He inflated the value of his real estate in the kingdom to more than $266,659 by conducting fake sales operations and paid huge sums of cash to the member of the member of the Shura Council and a number of his company employees to obtain facilities and loans from banks inside and outside the kingdom in an irregular manner.

In another case, a director of a port and a number of employees, including the director of public relations, the director of the projects department and two in the maintenance department, were arrested for violating their job duties.

According to reports, they exploited their influence to achieve personal interests, illicit financial gain and launder money by obtaining projects in the port using commercial entities whose owners have been suspended.

In November 2017, Saudi Arabia launched an anti-corruption drive that saw senior princes, ministers and prominent businessmen rounded up. In early January 2019, the Royal Court said a committee led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz had recovered $107 billion in settlements, including property, companies and cash.

 Soon after the launch of the anti-corruption drive, the Saudi crown prince said that his country had “suffered a lot from corruption” since the 1980s and that experts had calculated that “roughly 10% of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom.”

“My father [King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud] saw that there is no way we can stay in the G20 and grow with this level of corruption,” he told the New York Times at the time.

“In early 2015 [after he acceded to the throne], one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption – at the top… They came up with about 200 names.”

The most recent initiation of corruption cases is seen as a continuation of the drive that was launched in 2017, especially that the move involves a high number of government officers and officials.

Among those arrested in the different cases were also a former governor, a commander of one of the security sectors with the rank of a major-general, an employee of the Saudi Royal Air Force and a municipality employee.

Most of those targeted in the latest drive were accused of misusing their influence to misappropriate money or properties and further their personal interests.

According to media reports, Saudis are largely supportive of the crackdown, which they see as a legitimate drive to end a culture of graft.

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