Riyadh, (AFP) – Most Saudi elites detained in a sweeping anti-corruption purge last month have agreed to a financial settlement in exchange for their freedom, the attorney general said on Tuesday.
Dozens of high-profile figures including princes, ministers and business tycoons were arrested or sacked earlier this month, in the biggest purge of the kingdom’s elite in its recent history.
“Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the (anti-corruption) committee agreed to a settlement,” Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement, adding that 159 people are currently being detained.
“The necessary arrangements are being finalised to conclude such agreements.”
A “settlement” translates as handing over allegedly ill-gotten gains to the Saudi state treasury.
The attorney general has previously said he estimates at least $100 billion has been misused in embezzlement or corruption over several decades.
His latest statement comes after Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, the former National Guard chief, was released last week following a settlement reportedly exceeding $1 billion.
Some analysts saw Prince Miteb’s removal as an attempt by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defence minister, to consolidate his control over the security services.
But Saudi authorities insist the purge was meant solely to target endemic corruption as the kingdom seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.