Probe into $100b rort
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.