Saudi Arabia cracks down on corruption, arrests 11 princes and senior ministers

world | Sunday, November 5th, 2017
Team Asianet Newsable
Highlights
  • A new anti-corruption commission has been established to keep the members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia and senior officials in check
  • The commission has arrested 11 princes, including a prominent billionaire, and dozens of current and former ministers in a sweeping crackdown
  • King Salman on Saturday also removed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who headed the National Guard and replaced the Economy Minister

King Salman of Saudi Arabia is striving hard to bring changes in the Islamic monarchy. After making an announcement that women will be allowed to drive and also giving citizenship to a robot, a new anti-corruption commission has been established to keep the members of the royal family and senior officials in check.

The commission has arrested 11 princes, including a prominent billionaire, and dozens of current and former ministers in a sweeping crackdown.

King Salman on Saturday also removed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who headed the National Guard and replaced the Economy Minister. He has named his 32-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to lead the commission.

Billionaire tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major investor in Apple, Twitter, Citigroup and many other international companies, was among the senior figures detained in the crackdown.

The news was first reported by Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel. Four current and dozens of former ministers were arrested as the commission launched a probe into old cases such as floods that devastated the Red Sea city of Jeddah in 2009.

It is investigating the Saudi government’s response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that has killed several hundred people in the past few years.

Meanwhile, the kingdom’s top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported.

An aviation source told AFP that security forces had grounded private jets in Jeddah, possibly to prevent any high-profile figures from leaving.

Meanwhile, the kingdom’s top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported.

The government said the anti-corruption committee has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary.

The 32-year-old Crown Prince has been seeking to attract greater international investments and improve the country’s reputation as a place to do business. It’s part of a larger effort to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil revenue.

AFP quoted analysts said many of those detained were resistant to Prince Mohammed's aggressive foreign policy that includes the boycott of Gulf neighbour Qatar as well as some of his bold policy reforms, including privatising state assets and cutting subsidies.

Already viewed as the de facto ruler controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy, the prince is widely seen to be stamping out traces of internal dissent before a formal transfer of power from his 81-year-old father King Salman.

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