Thursday, 23 January 2020

Saudi Arabia Relaxes Anti-corruption Campaign

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  • Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    TEMPO.CO, Riyadh - Saudi Arabia has ended a sweeping crackdown on corruption ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that it said had recovered more than $106 billion through settlements with scores of senior princes, ministers and top businessmen.

    A royal court said in a statement on Wednesday, Jan. 30, authorities had summoned 381 people, some as witnesses, under the campaign launched in November 2017, but it provided no names.

    It said 87 people confessed to charges against them and reached settlements that included the forfeiture of real estate, companies, cash and other assets.

    The campaign ended as abruptly as it began, despite speculation in the business community that a new round of arrests was imminent.

    The public prosecutor refused to settle the cases of 56 people due to existing criminal charges against them. Eight more who declined settlement offers stand accused of corruption, the court said.

    Detainees who were not indicted were freed, but it was unclear when travel bans, bank freezes and electronic monitoring of at least some of those released earlier would end.

    For the first three months of the campaign, many members of the kingdom's economic and political elite were held in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, with some later moved to a prison.

    Some detainees were reportedly tortured, which the authorities have denied.

    Critics called it a shakedown and power play by Prince Mohammed. It unsettled some foreign investors that he is courting to diversify the economy away from oil.

    The October killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate tarnished the crown prince's reputation in the West and intensified criticism of Riyadh's human rights record and its role in the Yemen war.

    Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed has defended the anti-corruption campaign as "shock therapy" as he tries to overhaul the economy.

    His social reforms, including the easing of restrictions such as bans on cinemas and women driving, have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including the arrests of dozens of clerics, women's rights activists and intellectuals.