Saudi Arabia reportedly charged hundreds of government officials, including military and security personnel, with crimes involving bribery and exploiting public office, the nation’s anti-corruption agency said on Sunday.
The announcement was shared by Saudi Arabia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha). In the statement, Nazaha added investigators would bring charges against 298 people on crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power. These crimes reportedly involve 379 million riyals ($101 million).
Nazaha’s announcement provided no names and few details about the cases; Saudi Arabia does not identify individuals indicted unless they are convicted to protect their privacy. However, reports indicate that there are eight defense ministry officers accused of bribery and money laundering in relation to government contracts from 2005-2015. Also reportedly implicated are 29 interior ministry officials in the Eastern Province, including three colonels, a major general, and a brigadier general.
Two judges reportedly face bribery charges as well. In addition, nine officials at AlMaarefa University in Riyadh are among the followers.
Mass raids of officials, including princes and others connected to the royal family, have become a recurring event following the ascent of Cornw Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the position of successor to King Salman. In 2017, many of Saudi Arabia’s economic and political elite were detained in Riyadh at a luxury hotel in a crackdown on corruption; these arrests were viewed by some as an MBS effort to remove anyone posing a political threat. Last year, the royal court announced the end of this crackdown and that it would begin a new campaign to curb corruption by government employees.
A new crackdown appeared to begin this month after the reported detention of two of the royal family’s most prominent members, Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, a younger brother of the king, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, nephew to the king and former crown prince. Saudi officials have not officially commented on these arrests. However, the detainment of such prominent royal family members fueled rumors of a possible coup attempt or the deterioration of 84-year-old King Salman’s health.
Considered Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, MBS has reportedly sewn resentment within the royal family with his tightened grip on power, which many suggest is indicated by the necessity for such raids. A growing number of Saudi Arabia’s elites allegedly also question his leadership.
In October 2019, a senior foreign diplomat, five royal sources, and business leaders disclosed to Reuters anonymously that Saudi Royal family members were increasingly frustrated over MBS’s leadership following the attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil facilities that same month.
One of the sources stated, “There is a lot of resentment. How were they not able to detect the attack?”