Saudi Ara­bia de­tains 200 peo­ple in $100B fraud probe.

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Saudi Ara­bia an­nounced on Thurs­day it has de­tained 201 peo­ple as part of a sweep­ing probe, es­ti­mat­ing that at least $100 bil­lion has been mis­used through em­bez­zle­ment and cor­rup­tion in past decades. The move has been seen by some as an ef­fort by the royal fam­ily to con­sol­i­date power and comes as ten­sions within the re­gion have sky­rock­eted over the past week. Here’s what you need to know:


Sur­prise ar­rests be­gan overnight Satur­day, when 11 princes and 38 of­fi­cials and busi­ness­men were de­tained. They are be­ing held at five- star ho­tels across the coun­try, in­clud­ing the RitzCarl­ton in Riyadh.

On T hurs­day, Saudi Ara­bia an­nounced it has de­tained 201 peo­ple. The king­dom’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral Saud al- Mo­jeb said in a state­ment that 208 peo­ple had been called in for ques­tion­ing since Satur­day evening, and that seven peo­ple were re­leased with­out charge, leav­ing 201 peo­ple still in de­ten­tion.

The fig­ure re­leased by the gov­ern­ment is far larger than pre­vi­ously re­ported as it ap­pears more ar­rests were made through­out the week.


Among those de­tained are bil­lion­aire Saudi Prince Al­waleed bin Talal and two of the late King Ab­dul­lah’s sons, in­clud­ing Prince Miteb who un­til Satur­day had headed the pow­er­ful Na­tional Guard be­fore he was ousted and de­tained. Prince Miteb was once a con­tender for the throne and was be­lieved to be op­posed to the king’s 32-year-old son, Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, be­com­ing suc- ces­sor as crown prince.

An es­ti­mated 1,700 bank ac­counts have been frozen be­long­ing to in­di­vid­u­als. AlMo­jeb con­firmed that ac­tion was taken to sus­pend per­sonal bank ac­counts, but did not dis­close any fig­ures. The gov­ern­ment has stressed that only per­sonal banks have been frozen, leav­ing com­pa­nies and businesses so far un­touched.


For years, Saudis have com­plained of ram­pant cor­rup­tion and mis­use of pub­lic funds by top of­fi­cials in a sys­tem where nepo­tism is also wide­spread.

Royal fam­ily mem­bers have long re­ceived undis­closed monthly stipends from state cof­fers built up dur­ing years of higher oil prices. The gov­ern­ment, how­ever, has been forced to in­tro­duce aus­ter­ity mea­sures since oil prices fell three years ago, re- duc­ing sub­si­dies and driv­ing up costs for av­er­age Saudi na­tion­als. Still, Saudi ob­server Thomas Lipp­mann says he be­lieves the anti- cor­rup­tion probe is “a power grab” be­cause it tar­gets only se­lect mem­bers of the royal fam­ily and busi­ness com­mu­nity. He says it is also dif­fi­cult to draw the line be­tween what con­sti­tutes cor­rup­tion in Saudi Ara­bia and how busi­ness deals, con­tracts and ac­cess have been won over the years.


Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri shocked his coun­try Satur­day when he an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion in a strange, pre-recorded state­ment from Saudi Ara­bia. He has not re­turned to Le­banon since. Fol­low­ing a meet­ing of his Saudi-aligned Fu­ture Party in Beirut Thurs­day, the party is­sued a state­ment say­ing it was “nec­es­sary” for Hariri to re­turn “to re­store Le­banon’s dig­nity and re­spect.”

The state­ment read by for­mer prime min­is­ter Fuad San­iora seemed to in­di­cate that Hariri is be­ing held in Saudi Ara­bia against his will.

Le­banese Pres­i­dent Michel Aoun has said he will not con­sider the pre­mier’s res­ig­na­tion un­til the two meet in per­son.

Saudi Ara­bia has in the mean­time threat­ened that it would deal with Le­banon as a hos­tile state as long as the mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah was in the Le­banese gov­ern­ment.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day Saudi Ara­bia also or­dered its cit­i­zens to leave Le­banon. Kuwait and Bahrain have done the same.


French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron an­nounced a sur­prise trip on Thurs­day night to Saudi Ara­bia, say­ing he wanted to speak to the king­dom’s young, as­sertive crown prince about Iran and the war in Ye­men.

Macron said he made the de­ci­sion ear­lier in the morn­ing about head­ing to Saudi Ara­bia, in part over Shi­ite rebels in Ye­men launch­ing a bal­lis­tic mis­sile that tar­geted Riyadh, the king­dom’s cap­i­tal. He bluntly blamed Iran for the at­tack.

The bal­lis­tic mis­sile launched Satur­day night flew near Riyadh’s in­ter­na­tional air­port be­fore Saudi of­fi­cials said they shot it down. By early Mon­day, the king­dom re­sponded by clos­ing off Ye­men’s land, sea and air ports and warn­ing Iran the rebel mis­sile launch could be “con­sid­ered as an act of war.”

King Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz al-Saud, right, greets for­mer Le­banese prime min­is­ter Saad Hariri in Riyadh. Hariri’s res­ig­na­tion on Satur­day shocked his coun­try­men.


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