Saudi Arabia has detained 201 people for questioning over an estimated $100 billion misused through embezzlement and corruption, authorities said on Thursday, commenting on the biggest purge of the kingdom’s elite in its modern history.
“A total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far… Seven have been released without charge,” the Saudi information ministry said in a statement, quoting attorney general Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb.
Princes, ministers and a billionaire business tycoon were among dozens of high-profile figures arrested or sacked at the weekend, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman consolidates power.
Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that assets related to the alleged 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 statement 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 comes amid heightened regional tensions, with Saudi Arabia and Iran facing off over a missile attack from Yemen and a political crisis in Lebanon after prime minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation announced from Riyadh.