Riyadh, MINA – Saudi Arabia aims to confiscate up to £610 billion in money and assets from princes and business leaders in its crackdown on corruption, it has been claimed.
The government is swooping on members of the country’s elite as it looks to transform the conservative state into a modern country that is no longer dependent on oil.
Its latest purge has seen leading businessmen and over 60 princess, officials and high-profile Saudis arrested so far.
And a government source told the Wall Street Journal they were targeting a huge sum of money as part of the clampdown.
He said: “They reckon they could get around two to three trillion riyals from these people.
“That’s the number they are talking about.”
The kingdom’s central bank has already frozen a huge number of accounts as it bids to bring cases against some of those arrested.
Many of those frozen assets are said to be based abroad which will mean a long and complex process.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the a crackdown, the latest in a wave of frenetic changes in the kingdom over the past two years.
Initiative of the powerful heir to the throne
Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have already been held in a new purge announced on Saturday.
They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.
A number of other individuals suspected of wrongdoing were detained in an expansion of the crackdown, widely seen as an initiative of the powerful heir to the throne.
Others under scrutiny are being telephoned by investigators about their finances but have not yet been detained.
The number of people targeted by the crackdown was expected eventually to rise into the hundreds.
By today, over 1,700 bank accounts have been frozen, up from just 1,200 on Tuesday.
A number of those held most recently include individuals with links to the immediate family of the late Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz who died in 2011.
Saudis and Trump cheer the purge
Many Saudis have cheered the purge as an attack on the theft of state funds by the rich.
US President Donald Trump said those arrested had been “milking their country for years”.
The US State Department said on Tuesday it had urged Saudi Arabia to carry out any prosecution of officials detained in a “fair and transparent” manner.
Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi authorities 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”. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)