Saudi Arabia says 201 people detained | Daily News

Saudi Arabia says 201 people detained

SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia said Thursday 201 people are being held for questioning in a massive anti-graft swoop on the elite, with at least $100 billion estimated to have been lost through corruption and embezzlement over several decades.

“A total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far. Of those 208 individuals, seven have been released without charge,” the information ministry said in a statement.

Billionaire tycoon Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed Saudi Arabia's Warren Buffett, was among dozens of high-profile figures arrested or sacked last weekend, in the biggest purge of the kingdom's elite in its modern history.

Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that assets related to the corruption cases would be seized as state property, as the government appears set to widen the crackdown.

“The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large,” the ministry said.

“Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least USD $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.” The purge came just after an anti-graft commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was established on Saturday.

With the purge, which analysts describe as a bold but risky power play, Prince Mohammed has centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.

Meanwhile,Saudi Arabia on Thursday urged its citizens to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible”, days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while visiting the kingdom.

A foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SPA, also called on Saudis not to travel to Lebanon, but without specifying any threat.

“Due to the situation in the Republic of Lebanon, the kingdom asks its nationals visiting or living in Lebanon to leave as soon as possible, and advises its citizens not to travel there,” the source said.

On November 4, Hariri announced in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia that he was stepping down, citing Iran's “grip” on Lebanon and threats to his life.

The shock announcement raised fears that Lebanon -- split into rival camps led by Hariri and the Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah -- could once again descend into violence.

Hariri, who also holds Saudi nationality and whose wife and children live in the kingdom, has since met Saudi King Salman and travelled to the United Arab Emirates, according to official media in the Gulf states.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will await Hariri's return before taking any decision, while Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri's resignation had been “imposed” by Saudi Arabia.

The resignation coincided with the announcement in Saudi Arabia of an anti-corruption purge in which dozens of princes, ministers and businessmen have been rounded up.

Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon a day after Hariri's announcement. - AFP


 

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