200 held in Saudi corruption sweep
Saudi Arabian officials say more than 200 people have been summoned for questioning as part of a burgeoning investigation encompassing up to $100 billion in corruption-related wrongdoing.
A statement issued Thursday by the kingdom’s attorney general, Saud Mojeb, said a total of 208 people had been called in for questioning, with all but seven of them placed in detention.
Those caught up in the unprecedented crackdown include tycoons, VIPs and some members of the Saudi royal family.
Saudi officials have not publicly confirmed the names of the detained, citing privacy concerns, but one of the world’s richest men, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, was among those widely reported to be in custody in a luxurious Riyadh hotel.
The investigation is being spearheaded by the kingdom’s brash crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, a son of King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s monarch. The prince’s anti-corruption campaign broke sharply with a long tradition of consensus among senior princes underpinning most major steps by the government.
Although graft and bribery on an industrial scale have long characterized business dealings in the kingdom, the corruption crackdown also is widely viewed as a bid by the crown prince to consolidate his power.
Estimates of the amount of money involved in the alleged malfeasance have varied widely, and Mojeb’s statement marked the first official indication of the scope of bribery, fraud and other financial crimes, though without attaching a precise timeline.
“We estimate that at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades,” said the attorney general’s statement, which was carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The Saudi statement indicated that the investigation could broaden in coming days.