Saudi corruption sweep to move to trial with 95 detained

90 detainees have been released after agreeing to settlements involving cash, real estate and other assets

Dubai: Saudi media are reporting that 95 people are still being held by authorities in a purported anti-corruption campaign that was launched nearly three months ago by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

A Saudi infographic shared on social media says that detainees who have not agreed on financial settlements to close their case will soon be referred to the Public Prosecution for trial.

Billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal is reportedly among those still being held since early November when Mohammad ordered the stunning arrests of top princes, businessmen and officials.

State-linked Sabq news website on Wednesday quoted Attorney General Saud Al Mojeb saying 90 detainees have been released after agreeing to settlements involving cash, real estate and other assets.

We are in a new era,” he said. “Corruption will be eradicated. The campaign against corruption won’t stop.”

About 350 people have been summoned for questioning since King Salman ordered the anti-graft probe on Nov. 4.

Many came as witnesses or to provide information, with some spending only a few hours or less at the Ritz, the official said.

In an interview with the New York Times in November, Mohammad said: “Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 per cent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one ‘war on corruption’ and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up.”

There is no way, he added, to root out all corruption from top to the bottom, “So you have to send a signal, and the signal going forward now is, ‘You will not escape.’ And we are already seeing the impact,” like people writing on social media, “I called my middle man and he doesn’t answer.”

The anti-corruption drive is only the second-most unusual and important initiative launched by Mohammad. The first is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation – whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what Mohammad described to a recent global investment conference here as a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.”

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