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 Wednesday.
Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in the purge announced Saturday and face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.
But the sources, speaking Wednesday, 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 US 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 trading Wednesday 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 trading. Shares in companies linked to people detained in the investigation slid further.
Late Tuesday, 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 then-Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man behind the anti-graft drive.
Since Sunday, 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 Tuesday, banking sources said. MbN made his first confirmed public appearance since his ousting Tuesday at the funeral for Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, deputy governor of Asir province, who was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday. No cause has been given for the crash.
Among business executives detained in the probe so far are billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding; Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel; and Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of builder Red Sea International.
The US State Department said Tuesday it had urged Saudi Arabia to carry out any prosecution of officials detained in the crackdown in a “fair and transparent” manner.
New York Post | Wednesday, 8 November, 2017