Saudi Arabia arrests hundreds of government workers in corruption probe

16 Mar 20

Nearly 300 Saudi officials have been arrested during a crackdown on corruption, accused of offences including bribery, embezzlement and abusing their public positions.

 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) announced it had opened criminal investigations into 674 people, arresting 298.

The total amount of public money the accused have admitted to misusing is about 379 million riyals (£81.9m/$100m).

Many of those accused are involved with the military or the Ministry of Defence, including unnamed high-level officials with ranks as high as major general.

Others worked in health, education and the judiciary.

Saudi Arabia has enacted high-profile measures to curb corruption in recent years but according to global campaign group Transparency International, many analysts see the efforts as an attempt by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his political power.

In a recent profile of the Middle Eastern country, TI claimed “nepotism, patronage and clientelism remain major forms of corruption, and the defence and oil sectors are seen as particularly vulnerable”.

“While extensive anti-corruption legislations exists, the effectiveness of these laws in practice is open to question due to extensive opacity and state control of media outlets,” the profile states.

A huge crackdown on Saudi Arabia’s political elite class saw dozens of high-profile figures detained in a hotel in 2017 – a move that spooked some investors.

The royal court said that campaign was winding down last year, but later said anti-corruption efforts would focus on ordinary government employees, according to news agency Reuters.

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