Probe into $100b rort

The Weekend Post - - News -

MORE than 200 peo­ple have been de­tained by Saudi author­i­ties in a sweep that in­ves­ti­ga­tors say has un­cov­ered at least $US100 bil­lion in em­bez­zled funds.

Saudi crit­ics and ex­perts have called the un­prece­dented purge of top princes and busi­ness­men a bold and risky move by Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

They be­lieve it is aimed at con­sol­i­dat­ing power as he casts his eye to­wards the throne, sidelin­ing po­ten­tial ri- vals and dis­man­tling al­liances built with other branches of the royal fam­ily. The sweep comes at a time of in­creased ten­sions be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and its main regional ri­val, Iran, over the on­go­ing con­flict and suf­fer­ing in Ye­men and a newly erupt­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in Le­banon. Saudi At­tor­neyGen­eral Saud al-Mo­jeb said on Thurs­day 208 peo­ple had been called in for ques­tion­ing and that seven were re­leased with­out charge, leav­ing 201 in cus­tody. The fig­ure is the first re­ported by the govern­ment and far larger than what was pre­vi­ously known, re­flect­ing a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of ar­rests through­out the week.

The stun­ning purge be­gan overnight on Satur­day, ini­tially catch­ing 11 princes and 38 of­fi­cials, mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and busi­ness lead­ers.

They are be­ing held at fives­tar ho­tels, in­clud­ing the RitzCarl­ton in Riyadh.

The 32-year-old crown prince, who is the son of King Sal­man and is pop­u­larly known by his ini­tials MBS, is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as head of a newly formed an­ti­cor­rup­tion com­mit­tee.

Among those de­tained are bil­lion­aire Prince Al­waleed bin Talal and two sons of the late King Ab­dul­lah, in­clud­ing Prince Miteb, who un­til Satur­day had headed the pow­er­ful Na­tional Guard.

Sev­eral years ago, he was con­sid­ered a con­tender for the throne and was re­cently be­lieved to be op­posed to MBS be­com­ing crown prince.

An es­ti­mated 1700 in­di­vid­ual bank ac­counts have been frozen.

In the mean­time Saudi Ara- bia has or­dered its cit­i­zens out of Le­banon amid sky­rock­et­ing ten­sions be­tween their two gov­ern­ments.

A brief state­ment car­ried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency called on all Saudis liv­ing in or vis­it­ing Le­banon to de­part and warned against travel to the coun­try.

Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri shocked his coun­try Satur­day when he an­nounced in a tele­vised state­ment out of Saudi Ara­bia that he was re­sign­ing.

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