Saudi detains and questions 208 over embezzled $100 billion

The arrests are the culmination of a three-year investigation but this is just phase one, says Saudi Arabia's attorney-general

epa06313904 (FILE) - HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Chairman of Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia, during an Economist magazine conference under the title 'Europe and the Arab world: Strengthening Political, Business and Investment Ties', held in Athens, Greece, 05 May 2014 (reissued 07 November 2017). According to reports, Billionaire-prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is one of the eleven princes arrested on 04 November, along side four current ministers and tens of former ministers, in anti-corruption inquiry in Saudi Arabia.  EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
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Saudi Arabia detained 208 individuals for questioning by the supreme anti-corruption committee over allegations of corruption and embezzling $100 billion  (Dh367.3 billion)

After a  three-year investigation, a committee formed by Royal Order launched a round-up of suspects earlier this week. Of the 208 individuals detained, seven have been released without charge.

But the investigation has revealed the potential scale of the corruption to be "very large," said Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, Saudi Arabia's attorney-general..

"Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades," said the attorney-general, who is also a member of the supreme anti-corruption committee.

This is the first time that Saudi Arabia has ever released the exact number of people who were detained or disclosed the length of time that the anti-corruption committee has been working. The three-year timespan coincides with the start of the current king's reign.

“The investigations of the supreme anti-corruption committee are proceeding quickly," Sheikh Saud said. "The evidence for this wrongdoing is very strong, and confirms the original suspicions which led the Saudi Arabian authorities to begin the investigation in the first place.

"On Tuesday, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority agreed to my request to suspend the personal bank accounts of persons of interests in the investigation."

The Saudi authorities will now be seeking ways of returning those funds that were allegedly embezzled and moved to other countries.

The UAE central bank has reportedly asked financial institutions to provide information on the accounts of 19 Saudi citizens.

Sources told The National that the crackdown is almost guaranteed to continue as the government appears set to widen the investigations on corruption even further. .

The list of detainees includes princes, billionaires, former ministers and prominent businessmen — among them Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest men. The Saudi attorney general said the arrests are "phase one" of the anti-corruption drive.

However, normal commercial activity is expected to continue within the kingdom.

The arrests on Sunday sparked speculation around the world on the identities of the individuals concerned and the details of the charges against them.

The organisation has refused to reveal who the individuals are but indicated that they might not all be Saudi Arabian citizens.

"We will not be revealing any more personal details at this time. We ask that their privacy is respected while they continue to be subject to our judicial process," said Sheikh Saud.

Authorities said that assets related to the corruption cases would be claimed as state property.