Saudi Arabia Arrests 21, Mainly Public Officials, for Corruption

Published: 20 October 2021

Riyadh Saudi ArabiaSaudi authorities arrested 21 people accused of corruption and fraud. (Photo: apriltan18, Pixabay, License)

By Damir Bešlija

Saudi authorities said they have arrested 21 people accused of corruption and fraud, the kingdom’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) announced in Twitter thread titled No_place_for_corrupts_amongst_us.

“The Authority has initiated a number of criminal cases lately, and legal procedures against the accused individuals are underway,” the agency said.

Nazaha was established in 2011 to promote integrity and transparency and fight corruption in the kingdom. In 2018, the agency launched a smartphone application that allows users to report graft. The agency has been receiving thousands of reports annually.

In the latest round of arrests, authorities have nabbed public officials who allegedly received bribes to issue permits that should not have been issued or fix other administrative problems.

Among the accused are also managers of companies, bank employees, doctors and citizens who paid the bribes.

In one case, an officer working in one of the region's prison administration was arrested for receiving money to illegally release a detainee, and in another, two women were arrested for starting and managing a charitable association and collecting donations from which they would transfer up to US$199,513 to their personal accounts.

Among the arrested are two doctors affiliated with the Ministry of Health and three marketers for a milk manufacturer. The doctors are charged with taking bribes for issuing incorrect medical prescriptions in order to dispense baby milk the three marketers planned to resell to increase their sales.

Nazaha intensified its work in 2017, when the kingdom started its anti-corruption campaign and shocked the public with the arrest of hundreds of members of the country’s elite, including princes, ministers and businessmen.

All of them found themselves locked in luxury hotels, mainly the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Some were seen sleeping on the floor in the lobby.

Most of them agreed to settle charges brought against them, which injected over $100 billion into the country’s treasury. The operation that targeted the kingdom’s top was led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The crown prince was seen as a reformer but also as someone who wanted to make it clear who is in charge in Saudi Arabia and his anti-corruption episode as a power-grab. He dismissed this claim as “ludicrous.”

The prince’s international image was later stained by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The anti-corruption campaign that targeted the top of the country ended in 2019 and since then focused on lower-level officials.

Nazaha also announced that five people were sentenced to years-long prison terms for corruption. A former colonel at the Ministry of Defense was given 10 years for bribery, embezzlement, forgery and money laundering.

The other four were sent behind bars for up to four years for bribery.