Posts Tagged ‘graft’

New protests in Iraqi Kurdistan as residents seethe at authorities

December 23, 2017

 

A picture taken on December 20, 2017 shows security forces riding in a vehicle as they chase down demonstrators in a street in the city of Raniya, 130 kilometres north of Sulaymaniyah in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, as protests against political corruption raged for a third day despite a clampdown by security forces after five people were killed. (AFP)

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: Demonstrators irate at the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan took to the streets for a fifth day Friday, demanding the release of more than 200 protesters detained over violent rallies that have roiled the region.

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Furious locals have torched the offices of the autonomous region’s main political parties in a string of towns since Monday as ire boiled over at the calamitous fallout from an independence referendum.
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September’s overwhelming vote in favor of breaking away drew stinging reprisals from the central government that have battered Iraqi Kurdistan’s already flagging economy and fired anger over official graft.
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“Down with the government of the corrupt, no to corruption!” protesters in the town of Shamshamal, some 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of the region’s second city Sulaimaniyah, chanted.
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Protesters gathered in the town of Rania to demand that the “killers have to be brought to justice” after five demonstrators were shot dead there by security forces on Tuesday.
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In Sulaimaniyah itself, police shot in the air and fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters calling for the release of those detained over the rallies.
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Some 200 people have been arrested in the city alone since the protests began, while dozens have been held in other towns, activists from the Goran political party said.
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The eruption of anger at the political elite in Kurdistan has caused turmoil for the authorities, with Goran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group party withdrawing from the regional government.
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In the wake of September’s independence referendum rejected by the central authorities, Baghdad seized back disputed oil-rich regions from the Kurds in a move that gutted their finances.
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Veteran Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, who pressed ahead with the vote despite international opposition, announced he was standing down in October.
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Prime minister Nechirvan Barzani, his nephew, has promised to hold postponed elections in the region in the coming months.
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The Price of Freedom for Saudi Arabia’s Richest Man: $6 Billion

December 23, 2017

Prince al-Waleed bin Talal is trying to hold onto his company after crown prince’s corruption crackdown

Saudi authorities are demanding at least $6 billion from Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal to free him from detention, people familiar with the matter said, potentially putting the global business empire of one of the world’s richest men at risk.

The 62-year-old prince was one of the dozens of royals, government officials and businesspeople rounded up early last month in a wave of arrests the Saudi government billed as the first volley in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s campaign against widespread graft.

The Saudi government has disclosed few details of its allegations against the accused, many of whom have since been released from detention in a makeshift prison at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton after negotiating financial settlements. The $6 billion Saudi officials are demanding from Prince al-Waleed, a large stakeholder in Western businesses like Twitter, is among the highest figures they have sought from those arrested, some of the people familiar with the matter said.

The prince’s fortune is estimated at $18.7 billion by Forbes, which would make him the Middle East’s wealthiest individual. But Prince al-Waleed has indicated that he believes raising and handing over that much cash would be an admission of guilt and would require him to dismantle the financial empire he has built over 25 years, other people said.

Prince al-Waleed is talking with the government about instead accepting as payment for his release a large piece of his conglomerate, Kingdom Holding Co., people familiar with the matter said. The Riyadh-listed company’s market value is $8.7 billion, down about 14% since the prince’s arrest. Kingdom Holding said in November that it retained the support of the Saudi government and that its strategy “remains intact.”

Prince al-Waleed, currently chairman of the company, would want to stay on in a leadership role in the new state-backed company, one person close to him said.

“Keeping [the empire] under his control, that’s his battle,” the person said.

According to a senior Saudi official, Prince al-Waleed faces accusations that include money laundering, bribery and extortion. The official didn’t elaborate.

Salah Al-Hejailan, a lawyer who has worked with Prince al-Waleed in the past and remains in contact with his family, said that “there are no formal accusations” against the prince, and that the prosecutor would only open a judicial case against him if no understanding is reached.

The Saudi government is merely “having an amicable exchange to reach a settlement” with the tycoon, said Mr. Al-Hejailan, adding he wasn’t currently retained by Prince al-Waleed.

A hallway of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where dozens of royals, officials and businesspeople have been detained since early November.Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The prince has indicated to people close to him that he is determined to prove his innocence and would fight the corruption allegations in court if he had to.

“He wants a proper investigation. It is expected that al-Waleed will give MBS a hard time,” said a person close to Prince al-Waleed, referring to the crown prince by his initials, as many do.

Kingdom Holding, the Saudi Royal Court and the Saudi Embassy in Washington didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Saudi officials have said they expect the state to receive tens of billions of dollars from settlements with those arrested last month. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender to the throne, paid more than $1 billion to secure his release in a settlement with the government, said senior Saudi government advisers.

The detentions are part of a large-scale shake-up of Saudi society engineered by 32-year-old Prince Mohammed. He is also allowing women to drive next year, opening movie theaters for the first time in decades and orchestrating the public listing of the state’s oil company to raise cash for an economic transformation.

Prince Mohammed has also moved quickly to consolidate power in a royal family in which different branches often ran pieces of the government as private fiefs. In the past two years, the crown prince has taken control of internal security services, national defense and the economy from uncles and cousins who had long been in power.

Prince al-Waleed, a cousin to the crown prince, has never been seen as a contender for the throne because his father, Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, called for liberal social and political reforms in the 1960s and fell out of favor.

Prince al-Waleed speaking at a press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May.Photo: Amer Hilabi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Like his father, Prince al-Waleed has long been an outspoken advocate for social reforms, such as allowing women to drive. He is also a sort of independent Saudi ambassador to the global business world, amassing big stakes in companies such as Apple, General Motors and News Corp. (all of which he has sold). News Corp is the owner of The Wall Street Journal. Currently, he is a major shareholder in Twitter, the ride-sharing service Lyft, AccorHotels and the Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts. His company’s skyscraper, Kingdom Centre, is one of Riyadh’s most striking landmarks.

Some people close to Prince al-Waleed say they believe his high profile helped turn Prince Mohammed against the tycoon. Kingdom Holding has long acted like an arm of the Saudi state, striking deals that could have also been done by the crown prince or the kingdom’s own sovereign-wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

On a holiday that took him through nine countries this summer, Prince al-Waleed met the president of Portugal and the prime minister of Albania. In September, he sat down with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss a “strategic alliance” with France, according to a news release about the meeting issued by Kingdom Holding.

Kingdom had been talking to France’s sovereign-wealth fund, its partner in a $400 million fund to invest in Saudi businesses, about bringing the Saudi government into the deal, people familiar with the matter said, adding there had been no progress on the matter since the prince’s arrest. A spokesman for the French fund declined to comment.

Inside the Ritz-Carlton, Prince al-Waleed has been allowed limited communication, is eating what people close to him call his “diet food” and exercising.

Prince al-Waleed’s arrest took his international business partners by surprise and cast uncertainty over the future of his company. Prince al-Waleed had expressed support for Prince Mohammed’s reform plans, and Kingdom Holding appeared likely to play a role in carrying out pieces of the economic and social change under way. Now the prince’s international business dealings have stalled, though the Kingdom board met in Riyadh on Wednesday, its first publicly announced meeting since Prince al-Waleed’s arrest.

Prince al-Waleed’s media company Rotana had been in talks with French conglomerate Vivendi to set up a joint venture with Saudi Public Investment Fund to sell music and open cinemas in Saudi Arabia, according to people familiar with the matter. But his arrest has scuttled any further discussions, they said. A Vivendi representative confirmed that Prince al-Waleed and Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bolloré held talks but said the venture was “not followed up” and “is not on agenda.”

It appears unlikely Prince al-Waleed had any inkling he was under investigation or faced imminent arrest, according to people close to him.

About a month before the arrests, he sent a text message—reviewed by the Journal—to Bakr bin Laden, the chairman of the massive construction firm Saudi Binladin Group, congratulating him on having been cleared of wrongdoing in relation to a crane collapse in Mecca. Prince al-Waleed told Mr. bin Laden in that message that it was now time to get back to work on the Jeddah Tower, a partnership with Kingdom Holding that would be the world’s tallest building when completed.

The tower remains unfinished. Mr. bin Laden is detained at the Ritz with the prince.

Write to Margherita Stancati at margherita.stancati@wsj.com, Summer Said at summer.said@wsj.com and Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com

Thousands of Romanians have protested against the judicial reforms — But they were adopted by lawmakers anyway

December 21, 2017
© AFP | Thousands of Romanians have protested against the judicial reforms in recent weeks
BUCHAREST (AFP) – Despite opposition whistles, Romania’s upper house approved Thursday judicial reforms that have sparked street protests and concerns abroad about the EU country’s commitment to tackling corruption.Critics say that the changes will reduce the independence of magistrates and curb the powers of the DNA, the respected anti-corruption investigative body.

Brussels worries that EU’s second-poorest country is backtracking on tackling graft, and Washington has also expressed concerns.

Thousands of Romanians including magistrates and law students have protested in recent weeks in Bucharest and other cities.

Centre-right President Klaus Iohannis now has to sign the legislation into law.

Iohannis, often a thorn in the left-wing government’s side, has called the reforms “a backward step in the functioning of the justice system and the fight against corruption”.

Iohannis warned that Romania risked following the path of Poland, which on Wednesday saw the European Commission launch disciplinary proceedings over its judicial reforms

In February the Romanian government backed down on altering anti-corruption laws after the biggest protests since the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

South Africa’s ruling party meet to choose new leader

December 16, 2017

AFP

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© Wikus de Wet, AFP | South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma (C) takes his seat during a presidential Gala dinner at the NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg on December 15, 2017.

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Latest update : 2017-12-16

South Africa’s ruling ANC party holds a conference starting Saturday to elect its new leader in a hotly contested two-way race seen as a pivotal moment in the country’s post-apartheid history.

The winner will be well placed to be the next president, but the ANC has lost much popularity since Nelson Mandela led it to power in the euphoric 1994 election that marked the end of white-minority rule.

Soaring unemployment and government corruption have fuelled frustration among millions of poor black South Africans who face dire housing and education alongside continuing racial inequality.

President Jacob Zuma, whose reign has been marred by graft scandals, will step down as ANC chief, but remain as head of state ahead of general elections in 2019.

Competing for the party leadership are his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a wealthy businessman.

The battle could split the ANC party and the five-day conference threatens to be acrimonious, forcing both candidates to issue last-minute calls for unity.

Hours before the event opened, local party branches fought multiple legal disputes in court that could affect which delegates can vote.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe sought to downplay suggestions that the meeting could collapse in chaos, adding “we are hoping to come out of this conference unified”.

Dlamini-Zuma, 68, headed the African Union until earlier this year, and is a former interior, foreign affairs and health minister.

But her critics say she would pursue President Zuma’s failing economic and political policies, and would be his proxy to protect him from criminal prosecution over graft allegations.

The couple had four children together before divorcing in 1998.

‘Afraid of being prosecuted’

Ramaphosa, 65, a former trade union leader, led the historic negotiations in the 1990s to end apartheid before launching a business career that made him one of the country’s wealthiest men.

He is often accused of failing to confront Zuma while serving as his deputy since 2014.

“There is so much at stake and the two candidates are very close in the race,” Amanda Gouws, a politics professor at Stellenbosch University, told AFP.

Gouws said that the thousands of party delegates could be offered bribes for their votes, and that President Zuma was lobbying hard for Dlamini-Zuma to emerge victorious.

“Zuma is very afraid of being prosecuted after he leaves office if Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t win, so he is really trying to make sure she does,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma has strongly denied that her campaign had been involved with vote-buying, saying that “no leader will be proud of being elected out of money”.

With tensions rising, Ramaphosa stressed that the party “should rally behind whoever is elected”.

The ANC is still South Africa’s biggest party by far, but the 54 percent it won in local elections last year was its worst poll result since 1994 — underlining its sharp recent decline in popularity.

2019 election looms

Ramaphosa is widely seen as a stronger candidate than Dlamini-Zuma to lead the ANC in the 2019 general election.

If Ramaphosa loses the party leadership battle, some experts warn that the party could split.

Opposition parties the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters both hope to exploit the ANC’s woes in the 2019 election, with one possible outcome being a coalition government.

President Zuma will open the conference with a speech on Saturday morning.

Other leadership hopefuls include parliament speaker Baleka Mbete, presidency minister Jeff Radebe and Zweli Mkhize, the party treasurer.

Israel PM faces new questions in graft probe

December 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses hundreds of right-wing activists who gathered in Tel Aviv on August 9, 2017 in a show of support for him against persistent corruption allegations

JERUSALEM (AFP) – 

Fraud squad detectives questioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem residence on Friday, the seventh time in a nearly year-long corruption probe, reports said.

Public radio and two privately-owned TV channels said that investigators arrived at the house shortly before 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

Police policy is not to comment until the day’s questioning has been completed.

The radio said an investigation into suspicions Netanyahu received luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, including Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian tycoon James Packer, was nearing completion.

“This is likely to be his last interrogation,” on the gifts case,” it said.

“After that the police intend to wrap up the case within a short time.”

The Maariv newspaper reported that detectives believed they had sufficient evidence to pass the file to the state prosecutor.

“The police are still deliberating whether to attribute to Netanyahu the offence of bribe-taking or receiving benefits,” Maariv said.

The prime minister was first questioned on January 2.

Investigations are expected to continue in a second case in which police suspect that Netanyahu sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The alleged scheme, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he has been the target of a smear campaign by political opponents.

Deadline looms for South Africa’s Zuma over revived graft charges — 800 corruption charges

November 30, 2017

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FILE PHOTO: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma gestures during the last day of the six-day meeting of the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo Reuters

 

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Lawyers for Jacob Zuma have until midnight to file papers outlining why nearly 800 corruption charges shelved before he became South African president eight years ago but recently reinstated by the courts should not be brought against him.

The revival of the charges could increase pressure on Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 and diminish his influence over who succeeds him when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) chooses a new leader in December.

The 75-year-old president has faced and denied numerous other corruption allegations since taking office in 2009.

The 783 charges, which relate to a 30 billion rand ($2.2 billion) government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s, were filed but then dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) shortly before he ran for the presidency.

South Africa’s High Court reinstated the charges last year and the Supreme Court upheld that decision in October, rejecting an appeal by Zuma and describing the NPA’s decision to set aside the charges as “irrational”.

The NPA said then that Zuma had until Nov. 30 to make submissions before it decided whether to pursue the charges.

Spokesmen for the NPA and Zuma were not available for comment on Thursday.

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling lifted the rand currency against the dollar as investors bet that Zuma’s removal may be inching closer.

The president is unpopular with many investors after sacking respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in March, a move that hit South African financial assets and helped tip the country’s credit ratings into “junk” territory.

Infighting within the ruling ANC ahead of next month’s conference to elect a successor to Zuma as party chief has also sapped confidence among the investors upon whom South Africa relies to finance its hefty budget and current account deficits.

One of South Africa’s leading universities, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, said on Thursday that it had appointed Gordhan as a visiting professor.

He will join other ANC heavyweights who have ended up at the Wits after being sidelined by Zuma, among them another respected and ousted finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and former Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni.

Widely seen as a competent and honest technocrat, Gordhan has become an unlikely poster boy for public anger at the president, whose administration has been marred by missteps and allegations of corruption. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

($1 = 13.6794 rand)

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley and Catherine Evans)

Israeli Police Question Netanyahu for the Sixth Time in Corruption Investigation

November 19, 2017
BY UDI SHAHAM
 NOVEMBER 19, 2017 16:30

“It is allowed – according to the law – to receive gifts from friends,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset in January.

Netanyahu and Milchan

Netanyahu and Milchan. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Police interrogators from the Lahav 433 unit arrived at the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday afternoon to question him over his involvement in police cases 1000 and 2000.

This is the sixth round of questioning for the prime minister in these police cases, and it comes only ten days after the last round.

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Police reportedly complained that they didn’t have enough time for the last session earlier this month, and that this round of questioning meant to complete it.

It was reported that the questioning will mainly focus on Case 1000 – the “gifts affair,” in which it is suspected that the prime minster received expensive gifts from various businessmen, and police are currently investigating whether he gave them anything in return.

One of the main figures in this case is international movie mogul Arnon Milchan, who was questioned himself in London in September. Milchan had reportedly given large quantities of cigars and champagne to the prime minister and his wife Sara.

Recently the testimonies of his personal assistant and driver were revealed. According to media reports, Hadas Klein, the assistant, confirmed that there were massive supplies of champagne and cigars. However, she stated that she didn’t know what Milchan got in return.

In this current questioning, police will try to understand if Netanyahu used his power for the benefit of the producer.

The prime minister has acknowledged accepting gifts from Milchan, but maintains they were exchanged between friends and did not constitute bribery or breach of trust. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“It is allowed – according to the law – to receive gifts from friends,” he told the Knesset in January.

“Arnon Milchan and I have been friends for over 20 years. We are good friends, our wives are good friends,” he said.

Last week Channel 2 News showed photos that Netanyahu allegedly submitted to the police of himself and his family along with the Milchan family, in order to prove their friendship.

The police is reportedly looking into several cases in which Netanyahu might have benefited Milchan.

The first is an initiative nine years ago to establish a free trade zone near the Jordanian border. It is suspected that Milchan asked Netanyahu to promote the project. The request was said to have been made following consultation with Indian billionaire Ratan Tata, whom Israeli police recently questioned. The initiative never came to fruition.

The second involves Netanyahu helping Milchan to secure an American visa and if doing so had anything to do with the gifts received.

In a report after the last session of questioning, it was reported that Netanyahu is said to have answered: “There is no connection between the two. My relationship with Milchan goes way back. He is a long-time friend of mine. I tried helping him because of his contribution to the State of Israel, just like I helped many others.”

It is still unclear if this will be the police’s last round of questioning of the prime minister, and when it will recommend whether to close the case, or recommend that the Attorney-General indict Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu to face new questioning over graft

November 19, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, set to be questioned by police for the second time this month over two alleged cases of corruption, has consistently denied any wrongdoing

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be questioned by police on Sunday for the second time this month over two alleged cases of corruption, media reports said.Netanyahu is suspected of having received luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, including Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Milchan, a longtime friend of Netanyahu who reportedly sent him boxes of expensive cigars and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars, was himself questioned in September.

Sunday’s questioning would be the sixth time Netanyahu has faced police investigators in recent months.

Investigators have also questioned the premier on suspicions he sought a secret deal for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The alleged deal, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive positive coverage in return for helping curb Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing and says he has been the target of a campaign by political opponents.

Police would not confirm the reports of the latest questioning, which was widely reported in the Israeli media on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu confidants Yitzhak Molcho and David Shimron, partners in a law firm and both relatives of the premier, were questioned by police as part of a probe into suspected corruption around the purchase of German submarines.

Netanyahu himself has not been named as a suspect in the submarine case, but reports said he might give testimony into the affair on Sunday.

Saudi AG reveals corruption close to $100 billion, 208 individuals called in for questioning

November 9, 2017

Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb. (Photo courtesy: social media)
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In a statement on Thursday, Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb said: “The investigations of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee are proceeding quickly … The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large.”
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Based on the investigations over the past three years, Al-Mojeb estimated that “at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.”
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He said a total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far. Of them, “seven have been released without charge.”
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Al-Mojeb, who is also the member of the anti-corruption committee, said the evidence for “this wrongdoing is very strong and confirms the original suspicions which led the Saudi authorities to begin the investigation into these suspects in the first place.”
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He said given the scale of the allegations, the Saudi authorities, under the direction of the Royal Order issued on Nov. 4, had a clear legal mandate to move to the next phase of “our investigations, and to take action to suspend personal bank accounts.”
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“On Tuesday, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) agreed to my request to suspend the personal bank accounts of persons of interests in the investigation,” he said.
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Al-Mojeb admitted that there has been a great deal of speculation around the world regarding the identities of the individuals concerned and the details of the charges against them.
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“In order to ensure that the individuals continue to enjoy the full legal rights afforded to them under Saudi law, we will not be revealing any more personal details at this time,” he said.
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“We ask that their privacy is respected while they continue to be subject to our judicial process.”
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He reiterated that it was important to repeat, as all Saudi authorities have done over the past few days, that normal commercial activity in the Kingdom is not affected by these investigations.
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“Only personal bank accounts have been suspended. Companies and banks are free to continue with transactions as usual,” he said.
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Al-Mojeb said: “The Government of Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is working within a clear legal and institutional framework to maintain transparency and integrity in the market.”
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Saudi Arabia says 201 people detained in anti-graft swoop

November 9, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, shown here attending an investment forum in October, has launched a sweeping purge

RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi Arabia said Thursday 201 people are being held for questioning in a massive anti-graft swoop on the elite, with at least $100 billion estimated to have been lost through corruption and embezzlement over several decades.

“A total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far. Of those 208 individuals, seven have been released without charge,” the information ministry said in a statement.

Billionaire tycoon Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed Saudi Arabia’s Warren Buffett, was among dozens of high-profile figures arrested or sacked last weekend, in the biggest purge of the kingdom’s elite in its modern history.

Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that assets related to the corruption cases would be seized as state property, as the government appears set to widen the crackdown.

“The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large,” the ministry said.

“Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least USD $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades.”

The purge came just after an anti-graft commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was established on Saturday.

With the purge, which analysts describe as a bold but risky power play, Prince Mohammed has centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.