Saudi anti-corruption authority pursues makers of fake Covid-19 vaccine certificates

Agency releases details of 23 recent cases, including a former ambassador convicted of bribery

Cars drive past the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority has announced new details regarding criminal cases it has pursued recently, including some involving health ministry employees who were caught handing out fake Covid-19 vaccine certificates.

The kingdom’s oversight and anti-corruption authority, known as Nazaha, announced the details of the cases on Wednesday, listing 13 new cases in which it has begun judicial proceedings and 10 rulings that were passed in previous cases.

Nazaha is a Saudi Arabian government anti-corruption agency established in 2011. Since its creation, the kingdom has detained hundreds of government officials and employees, including military and security officers, on charges involving bribery and exploiting public office.

In one of the 13 cases announced on Wednesday, nine employees working at the kingdom’s Ministry of Health and six “foreign mediators” were arrested over allegations that they accepted money in return for modifying the immunisation status of citizens to indicate that they had received a Covid-19 vaccine when they had not.

In another case, an interior officer and a resident were arrested for forming a criminal gang through which they identified workers in breach of residency laws, arrested them and then demanded bribes to secure their release.

Another involved a retired brigadier general who served in Saudi Arabia’s Border Guards. He is accused of receiving 10 million Saudi riyals ($2.66 million) to accept requests for compensation from 15 citizens, who have also been arrested, for large areas of land that were owned illegally.

A former ambassador was also convicted of bribery and abuse of office for illegally issuing Hajj and Umrah visas in exchange for payments. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined 300,000 Saudi riyals.

The authority said it was committed to “pursue anyone who exploits the public office to achieve personal gain or harm public interest in any way, and that the accountability extends far beyond the retirement of individuals, as these types of crimes have no statute of limitations”.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 9:37 AM