Saudi says it releases seven detained in corruption enquiry

The released were discharged on the grounds of lack of evidence of wrongdoing

(FILES) This file photo taken on October 24, 2017 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's aggressive power grab represents a huge gamble on the stability of his kingdom and its neighbors, but Donald Trump is not one to worry. The Washington foreign policy establishment may be agog at the young leader's "anti-corruption" purge of potential foes within the Saudi elite, but the US government barely flinched. No one is quite sure whether MBS' bold move will leave him as the uncontested leader of a more modern, open Saudi Arabia -- or open the door to chaos, rebellion or a regional war.
 / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Saudi Arabia has released seven of the 208 high-ranking royals, officials and businessmen accused of corruption on the direction of the attorney general in co-ordination with the newly-established commission against corruption.

Sheikh Saud Al Moaajeb, attorney general and member of the Supreme Committee for Combating Corruption, said the released had been discharged on the grounds of lack of evidence of wrongdoing. The proceedings of the body are progressing rapidly to ensure all those involved are dealt with fairly.

“The number of persons arrested was 208, while seven were released, for lack of sufficient evidence,” Sheikh Saud said. “Given the magnitude of these charges, under the Royal Order of 4 November, there is a clear legal mandate to move to the next stage of investigations with the suspects.

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“There is a great deal of speculation around the world about the identities of the individuals concerned and the details of the charges against them,” he added. “However, we will not disclose any details at this time, to ensure that they enjoy the full legal rights granted to them by the Kingdom, and ask to respect their privacy while undergoing judicial proceedings.”

Normal commercial activity in the Kingdom will not be impacted by the investigations and detentions. Corporations continued to conduct normal business. “Only personal bank accounts were frozen, and companies and banks have the freedom to continue transactions and transfers as usual, something that the official authorities in the Kingdom had pointed out and reiterated,” he said.

Sheikh Saud indicated that Riyadh expected to recover large sums from the crackdown on the individuals involved. “The financial value of these decades-long practices amounts to very large amount of misappropriated and unutilised public funds, and the potential value of these amounts may exceed $100 billion, according to initial investigations,” he said.

Charges are expected to emerge quickly from the investigative process. Three years of groundwork has already gone into the inquiry.

“The Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has accepted my request to freeze their personal assets in this investigation,” he said. “This action confirms the findings of our preliminary investigation over the past three years on the scale of these corrupt and large practices.”

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