Saudi Arabia vows to continue crackdown on corruption

Saudi Public Prosecutor Saud al-Moajab said the financial reporting office would be part of the state’s General Auditing Bureau, which watches out for financial discrepancies.
Friday 08/02/2019
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chairs a cabinet meeting, January 29, 2019. (DPA)
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chairs a cabinet meeting, January 29, 2019. (DPA)

LONDON - Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has vowed to continue the kingdom’s fight against corruption.

During a cabinet meeting February 5, King Salman said the kingdom would continue its approach to preserve integrity and eradicate corruption. He said law enforcement and auditing bodies should strengthen their roles in that regard.

The pledge was less than a week after the announcement that Saudi Arabia’s lengthy anti-corruption investigation had ended after recovering $106 billion in settlements from members of the royal family, former government officials and businessmen accused of corruption.

Saudi authorities also announced the formation of a government office designed to monitor state spending. Saudi Public Prosecutor Saud al-Moajab said the financial reporting office would be part of the state’s General Auditing Bureau, which watches for financial discrepancies.

“Corruption is not restricted to a specific company or government sector. The concerned authorities will be monitoring,” Moajab was quoted as saying in a report published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette said Moajab said the new office would allow the General Auditing Bureau to conduct specialised audits to search for financial violations. The public prosecutor would conduct investigations and demand penalties against violators.

King Salman thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz for leading the anti-corruption committee’s investigation. The crown prince said the anti-corruption investigation was “shock therapy” for the country.

In an opinion piece in the Saudi Gazette, analyst Khaled M. Batarfi stated there were multiple messages in the crackdown.

“One for the Saudi people, which basically says: ‘We will not tolerate corruption any longer. Starting today, the cleaning process is on full speed. If you are clean you will benefit from the new environment. If you are dirty, then clean up or else!’ Batarfi said.

“The second message is for the world. It declares: ‘Saudi Arabia is entering the race for the world’s best business and investment environment. Justice, honesty and the rule of law are top concerns. Corruption in all its forms is at the bottom. Investors, inventors, workers and businessmen will enjoy an even playing field, where only the best may win. No one is above the law,’” he added.

In November 2017, the kingdom announced the biggest anti-corruption investigation in its history, targeting individuals once believed untouchable, including current and former government officials, billionaire businessmen and members of the royal family.

King Salman issued formed an anti-corruption task force, overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed, to “investigate, issue arrest warrants, travel bans and freeze accounts and portfolios,” a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency said.

High-profile arrests came after a 3-year investigation and resulted in the detention in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh of 11 princes, a dozen former ministers and four current ministers, including the former head of the kingdom’s National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah Al Saud, former Economy Minister Adel Fakieh, billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Prince Mutaib and Prince Al-Waleed have been freed since then.

On January 30, Crown Prince Mohammed submitted a report to the king that the committee had finished its mission.

A court statement said detainees not indicted on charges related to corruption were released. Settlements were reached with 87 individuals.

However, 56 individuals with unresolved criminal charges were not given the opportunity to settle their cases. Eight individuals refused to settle despite “evidence against them” and were referred to the public prosecutor for further due process, the statement added.