UPDATE 2 — 11/12, 2:19 p.m. EST: Middle East Eye is reporting over 500 people have now been arrested as a result of a campaign to clean up Saudi government corruption, with some being brutally assaulted during and after their detainment.
Among the most well-known arrestees is Osama bin Laden’s half-brother, Bakr, who chairs a construction company that has been doing business in Saudi Arabia since the 1950s.
Former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. from Ronald Reagan to the George W. Bush administration, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has also been targeted, as his bank account has been frozen but is not under arrest.
UPDATE — 11/9, 7:58 a.m. EST: Reuters sources said Wednesday the Saudi royal family’s crackdown on corrupt officials and wealthy businessmen is larger in-scale than originally reported and includes hundreds of individuals who are subject to arrest and the freezing of over 1,700 bank accounts.
International NGO Human Rights Watch issued a statement Wednesday calling on the Saudis to “immediately reveal the legal and evidentiary basis for each person’s detention and make certain that each person detained can exercise their due process rights”.
“It’s great that Saudi authorities are declaring that they want to take on the scourge of corruption, but the right way to do that is through diligent judicial investigations against actual wrongdoing, not sensationalistic mass arrests to a luxury hotel,” HRW continued.
A committee established in Saudi Arabia has granted sweeping power to Prince Mohammed bin Salman to combat corruption — a move President Trump endorsed with “great confidence” Monday.
Empowered by a royal decree issued from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Saturday, bin Salman has authorized the arrest of over 60 former ministers, Saudi princes and businessmen, “who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money”.
Prince Mohammed also serves as first deputy prime minister and minister of defense.
Commenting on the arrests, Saudi chief legal officer, Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb, released a statement which read:
“(The detainments are) merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists.”
Under the decree, the committee members are sanctioned to operate above all laws, regulations, instructions, orders and decisions to carry out its mission to defeat corruption.
The committee is tasked with identifying crimes and perpetrators involved in public corruption and with broad power is able to issue arrest warrants, prohibit travel, freeze individual assets, and return funds to the state treasury.
The committee is also permitted to create investigative teams to assist in their investigation and is required to present a report on its findings.
Among the dozens arrested to-date include: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, Alwaleed al-Ibrahim, and Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih.
Prince Alwaleed is a billionaire investor; Prince Mutaib was until his arrest the head of the Saudi National Guard, al-Ibrahim is a Saudi businessman and chairman of Middle East Broadcasting Center; and bin Mohammed Fakeih was minister of economy and planning.
“The dismissals and detentions suggest that Prince Mohammed rather than forging alliances is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military and the national guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war,” said Gulf region expert James Dorsey of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
The accused have been charged with money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain.
Those detained are being held in the Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, which has stopped booking guests to accommodate further detainment.
[Al Arabiya] [BBC News] [USA Today] [AP] [Photo courtesy Al Arabiya]