Saudi Arabia Charges 126 with Corruption

Published: 30 January 2019

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud - 2017 copy copyCrown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Photo: The White House)

By Tajna Biscevic

Saudi authorities charged 126 local government employees across the country with corruption, abuse of power and other crimes as part of a controversial anti-corruption campaign that started in 2017.

The charges include “financial and managerial corruption, abuse of power as well as other legal and criminal violations," the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs tweeted on Tuesday.

Specialized investigators from the prosecutor's office will now take over the probe.

The move continues the massive campaign which began in November 2017 when authorities arrested hundreds of prominent Saudis, including princes and government ministers, on the orders of the de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Salman then ordered specialized departments tasked with the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases to be established within the prosecutor's office.

Different media outlets have reported that anywhere between 300500 people were arrested at the time, and locked up in five-star hotels. Saudi authorities also froze more than 2000 bank accounts.

However, there were no trials and some of those arrested in late 2017 were released after agreeing on settlement deals with Saudi authorities, while some were exonerated. On Monday, Reuters reported that at least eight people arrested at the time had been released the previous week, having spent more than a year in prison.

Earlier this week, Transparency International ranked Saudi Arabia 58 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index. With a score of 49 out of 100, the country is largely seen as corrupt but is nevertheless near the top of the Middle East and North Africa region.

Saudi Arabia has also come under fire in international media for the lack of transparency concerning the investigation into the October 2018 assassination of investigative journalist Jamal Khashoggi – which the CIA says it has evidence was ordered by the Crown Prince, according to Reuters. The government denies involvement in the murder.

The UN investigator heading the probe into the murder was, on Tuesday, denied entry to the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul where Khashoggi was murdered.