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Saudi Arabia dismissed a number of senior ministers on 04 November 2017 and detained nearly a dozen princes in an investigation by a new anti-corruption committee. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, was among those held. The senior ministers who were sacked include Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, the head of the National Guard, and Adel Faqih, the economy minister. Abdullah al-Sultan, commander of the Saudi navy, was replaced by Fahad al-Ghafli. In a statement on the official Saudi news agency, SPA, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud alluded to the "exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money" for the creation of the anti-graft committee.

Saudi authorities have not confirmed the names of those detained. However, 14 former and current ministers, officials and businessmen were mentioned on social media as being among those held. Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported that at least 11 princes, four current ministers and several former ministers had been detained in the anti-corruption probe. Saudi officials, businessmen reportedly detained:

  • Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holding group
  • Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah, minister of the National Guard
  • Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former governor of Riyadh
  • Prince Turki bin Nasser, former head of meteorology, environment
  • Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of MBC media group
  • Khaled al-Tuwaijri, former president of the Royal Court
  • Adel Faqih, minister of economy and planning
  • Amr al-Dabbagh, former president of the General Investment Authority
  • Saleh Abdullah Kamel, chairman of Dallah al Baraka Group
  • Saud al-Tobaishi, head of Royal ceremonies and protocols
  • Ibrahim al-Assaf, state minister and executive of Saudi Aramco
  • Bakr Binladin, owner of construction company Saudi Binladin Group
  • Saud al-Dawish, former CEO of Saudi Telecom Company
  • Khaled al-Mulhem, former director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines

A possible reason for the detention of billionaire prince Alwaleed Bin Talal was Alwaleed's refusal to put up money to help prop up Saudi's staggering economy. The message from Bin Salman to the country's wealthy elite is: Pay up or get locked up.

Confusion also surrounded the whereabouts of Mohammed bin Salman's predecessor as crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, who had not been seen publicly since June 2017 and was rumoured to be under house arrest.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later said that most of the more than 200 people recently detained on corruption charges have agreed to hand over their assets to the government. The assets are worth an estimated 100 billion dollars. Saudi authorities have detained over 200 influential people in a crackdown on corruption. They include Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major global investor. The authorities have also frozen related bank accounts.

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdom’s top international businessmen, was released from detention on 27 January 2018, more than two months after he was taken into custody in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. A senior Saudi official said Prince Alwaleed was freed after he reached a financial settlement with the attorney general. The decision to free him, and the release of several other well-known tycoons on Friday, suggested the main part of the corruption probe was winding down after it sent shockwaves through Saudi Arabia’s business and political establishment.

Saudi Arabia has some, albeit limited, laws aimed at curbing corruption. The Tenders Law of Saudi Arabia, approved in 2004, has improved transparency within government procurement through publication of such tenders. Further, ministers and other senior government officials appointed by royal decree are forbidden from engaging in business activities with their ministry or government organization while employed there. There are few cases of prominent citizens or government officials being tried on corruption charges.

Details of the infamous al-Yamamah arms deal, between Saudi Arabia and the British defense firm BAE systems began to leak in 1985, but it was not fully exposed until 2006. It emerged that Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, former Saudi ambassador to the US and director of Saudi’s intelligence agency since 2012, negotiated with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, to facilitate the deal, subsequently bringing in $40 billion to BAE over a period of 20 years. During the investigations, the British police determined, “More than £6 billion may have been distributed in corrupt commissions, via an array of agents and middlemen.”

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption by employees. Government employees who accept bribes face 10 years in prison or fines of as much as one million riyals (approximately $267,000). The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were reports of government corruption during the year, and the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem. There was widespread public perception of corruption on the part of some members of the royal family and the executive branch of the government.

Despite the fact that corruption has been identified by foreign firms as an obstacle to investment in Saudi Arabia, authorities have taken some recent steps toward combating it. In April 2007, the King established the National Authority for Combating Corruption that is to report directly to him. This commission embodies the government's determination to implement a national strategy aimed at eliminating corruption of government employees. To what extent the Commission will be empowered to eradicate corruption remains to be seen on the ground." The General Auditing Bureau is also charged with combating corruption.

There are few aspects of the Saudi government's regulatory system that are transparent, although Saudi investment policy is less opaque than many other areas. Saudi tax and labor laws and policies tend to favor high-tech transfers and the employment of Saudis rather than fostering competition. Saudi health and safety laws and policies are not used to distort or impede the efficient mobilization and allocation of investments. Bureaucratic procedures are cumbersome, but red tape can generally be overcome with persistence.

Security forces were generally effective at maintaining law and order, but small-scale corruption occurred among security forces and impunity was a problem. The Board of Grievances is the only formal mechanism available to investigate claims of abuse, but its findings were not public. The government permitts some press criticism. For example, after the Jeddah flood on 25 November 2009, the government allowed articles openly critical of high-ranking municipal and other government officials, alleging widespread corruption in city planning.

On 11 December 2009, the Saudi Gazette reported interim results of the king's order for an investigation into the Jeddah flood, which was reportedly more destructive because bribe-taking and corruption in construction contracting and land deals led to improper building and engineering. Authorities detained government and nongovernment officials pending the outcome of the investigative committee's inquiry, but the prince in charge of the investigation said there was no need to publicize the detentions and investigations.

As of 29 August 2009, the Jeddah Administrative Court had postponed the issuance of a verdict three times in a Taif municipality corruption and bribe-taking scandal totaling 1.4 million riyals ($373,333). In July 2008 the court had convicted 16 Taif municipality employees. Sentences included prison, dismissal from employment, and fines. Seven others accused were absolved of all charges, and two private businessmen were fined 150,000 riyals ($40,000) each.

In October 2008 Arab News requested an investigation into corruption involving contracts for major roadwork, highlighting a project for which the government paid 698 million riyals (approximately $186.1 million) that was subcontracted multiple times and ultimately performed for only 18.2 million riyals ($4.9 million). There was no investigation.

Public officials were not subject to financial disclosure laws. The Prosecution and Investigation Commission, an independent body reporting to the Council of Ministers, investigated cases of corruption against public service officials. During the first half of 2008 the commission considered 12,466 cases involving public service officials and agencies. The commission identified instances of forgery, bribery, and public mistreatment, among other forms of misconduct.

The law does not provide for public access to government information, including precision in sources of state revenue and expenditures such as ministerial budgets or allocations to members of the royal family. During the year the government did not make publicly available information concerning specific instances of corruption, allegations regarding corruption, or government actions against corruption. In 2008 the Consultative Council called in ministers for questioning in exercise of its oversight responsibility, although some, notably the minister of finance, did not appear. There was no similar exercise during 2009. In 2008 the Court of Grievances delivered 2,695 verdicts on 1,368 criminal cases and 1,327 disciplinary cases against public officials and agencies.

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Page last modified: 29-01-2018 10:56:41 ZULU