More Saudis held in corruption sweep
Observers say Crown Prince consolidating his power
Dozens more people have been taken into custody by Saudi authorities, the kingdom said Thursday, bringing to 201 the number detained in a sweep that investigators say has uncovered at least $100 billion US in corruption.
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 aimed at consolidating power as he keeps an eye on the throne, sidelining potential rivals 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 Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said 208 people had been called in for questioning, and that seven were released without charge, leaving 201 in custody.
The new figure is far larger than what was previously reported by the government, reflecting a continuing series of arrests throughout the week. The stunning purge began overnight Saturday, initially catching 11 princes and 38 officials, military officers and business leaders. They are be- ing held at five-star hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton 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 anti-corruption 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 Saudi attorney General Saud al-Mojeb said 208 people had been called in for questioning, and that seven were released without charge, leaving 201 in custody. throne and was believed to have opposed MBS becoming crown prince.
The government declined to identify many of the other individuals being questioned, saying it is respecting their privacy during this phase of the investigation.
An estimated 1,700 individual bank accounts have been frozen.
French President Emmanuel Macron told journalists in the United Arab Emirates that he wasn’t making any judgments.
“This is not the role of a president, and similarly I would not expect a leader of a foreign country to come and infringe on domestic matters,’’ Macron said. Macron visited Saudi Arabia later Thursday and met with the crown prince.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives French President Emmanuel Macron in the capital riyadh on Thursday.