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Sunday 18 August 2019

Saudi Arabia corruption crackdown 'merely the start' with trials to be held

File photo of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud (AP)
File photo of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud (AP)

Saudi Arabia's newly-established anti-corruption committee overseeing the arrests of top princes and officials says evidence of widespread corruption has been uncovered.

Separately, the country's attorney general Saud al-Mojeb warned in a statement that trials will be held "in a timely manner" and that the probe is "merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption".

In a statement issued on Monday, a member of the committee, Khalid al-Mehaisen, said suspects are currently being questioned, the first tacit government acknowledgement that individuals have been detained.

He stopped short of naming the suspects.

Mr al Mehaisen described the investigations as "a very difficult task when it involves influential officials and senior executives".

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, two of the late King Abdullah's sons and powerful businessmen, including the chairman of the Binladin Group and the founder of the MBC Group of Arabic channels, are reportedly among those arrested.

King Salman on Monday swore in new officials to take over from a powerful prince and former minister believed to be detained in the sweep.

The official Saudi Press Agency released images Monday of the swearing-in of new National Guard chief Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin and new economy and planning minister Mohammad al-Tuwaijri.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who for years had led the National Guard, and Adel Fakeih, who had led the economy ministry, were both reportedly arrested in the probe overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The arrests began late on Saturday.

Eleven princes and 38 officials and businessmen are reportedly being held at five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh.

A company chaired by one detained billionaire prince sought to reassure investors after its stock plunged following his arrest.

Prince Alwaleed Kingdom Holding Co said in a statement on Monday that it has the Saudi government's "vote of confidence" as it pursues its investment strategy and global business operations.

Prince Alwaleed is chairman of the company, which has investments in Twitter, Apple, Lyft, Citigroup and hotel chains like the Four Seasons, Movenpick and Fairmont.

Chief executive Talal al-Maiman has said the company, which manages more than 12.5 billion US dollars of investments around the world, is focused on its "unwavering responsibilities" to shareholders.

The company, which lost 7.5% in trading on Sunday, made no reference its chairman's arrest.


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