Saudi Arabia’s AlUla commission appoints interim boss after chief executive's arrest

Amr Al Madani has been accused of abuse of authority and money laundering after authorities said he illegally secured contracts for a company he holds a stake in

Abeer AlAkel was chief of special initiatives and partnerships at the Royal Commission for AlUla before her appointment as interim chief executive. Photo: LinkedIn
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Abeer AlAkel has been named as acting chief executive of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) after the arrest of Amr Al Madani on allegations of corruption.

Ms AlAkel was chief of special initiatives and partnerships at the commission before her appointment on Monday.

She joined the RCU in 2017, having worked as a senior manager at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers and as a senior executive at Saudi British Bank, now known as Saudi Awwal.

The kingdom's Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, better known as Nazaha, said Mr Al Madani was detained over his alleged involvement in crimes of “abuse of authority and money laundering”.

The arrest makes him one of the more senior officials to have been named by Nazaha as part of its sweeping corruption clampdown, under which the authority has investigated and charged several billionaires, royals and government ministers over the past several years since its inception.

Before joining the government, Mr Al Madani is alleged to have illegally secured contracts for the benefit of the National Talents Company, in which he is one of the owners, from the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, a scientific research and government organisation in Riyadh.

This was allegedly achieved through the mediation of a relative, with the contracts valued at 206.6 million Saudi riyals ($55 million).

After joining the government, Mr Al Madani continued to hold a stake in the company, recommending it to RCU departments, it is alleged.

“He initially declared that he no longer had a relationship with the company and through that, a contract was made with the Royal Commission for AlUla,” Ahmed Al-Hussein, undersecretary and spokesman of Nazaha, told Saudi news channel Al Arabiya in an interview.

“But it became clear through our investigations that the aforementioned was still among the owners of the company because he was receiving the annual profits from the company and that his exit was only informal in nature.”

Several others were also arrested in relation to the same charge, Nazaha said.

AlUla, an ancient oasis city in the north-west, is undergoing a $15 billion transformation into a luxury travel destination as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision to draw in about 70 million international tourists a year to the kingdom by 2030.

The 4,000-year-old heritage site has been redeveloped as an archaeological and cultural attraction.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 12:15 PM