RIYADH (Dispatches) – Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 207 employees across about a dozen government ministries in the latest sweep by an anti-corruption body empowered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, known as “Nazaha”, announced the arrests late on Monday. Those detained were not named and it was unclear when the arrests were made.
The crown prince’s ‘anti-corruption purge’ began in late 2017. It has helped him consolidate power and netted the government $106bn in assets.
Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by those in power.
The commission said more than 460 people were investigated in this latest round, and that as a result, 207 Saudi citizens and residents were detained on allegations of corruption, abuse of authority and fraud.
Those accused will be referred to prosecution, the commission said. They hail from the national guard and a range of ministries, including defense, interior and health and justice, among others.
In April, the commission said 176 people from across the public sector had similarly been detained for alleged corruption.
In late 2017, Prince Mohammed targeted more than 300 princes, public figures and businessmen who together symbolized the elite structure encircling the ruling Al Saud family and its vast patronage networks.
In an unprecedented fashion that year, his forces arrested the country’s most powerful figures and held them incommunicado at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh for weeks and even months.
Several were later transferred to prisons or other detention facilities amid reports of physical abuse.
While the kingdom never confirmed the names of those detained, they included billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and Saudi construction tycoon Bakr bin Ladin.
Last year, two more high-ranking officials were removed from their posts and referred to trial.
They included Lieutenant General Fahad bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, a prince who oversaw Saudi offensives in Yemen, and his son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahad bin Turki, who was deputy governor of Saudi Arabia’s Jouf region.
In another development, a notable Saudi political activist and academic is on hunger strike again in the kingdom’s captivity to protest dire imprisonment conditions.
Mohammad Fahad Muflih al-Qahtani’s wife wrote in a tweet that the activist had started the protest action on Tuesday.
Qahtani is the co-founder of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, a human rights organization. The economics professor has earned a reputation as one of the Saudi judiciary’s “most eloquent and fervent critics.”
Qahtani’s spouse described maltreatment on the part of Saudi authorities, including denying him access to his books for a year and preventing contact between him and his family members, as the reasons behind his protest measure.