Rabat – Saudi Arabia has detained more than 200 princes and high officials on Thursday as part of anti-corruption crackdown, claiming that at least USD 100 billion had been lost to embezzlement and corruption in the past decades.
The Saudi Attorney General, Saud Mojeb, said that 208 people have been called in for questioning since Saturday evening. Seven people were since released without charges.
Three years of investigation have revealed that at least USD 100 billion has been misused over several decades. “The potential scale of corrupt practices which have been uncovered is very large,” Mojeb said.
However, media reports have said that among the detained people are two of the late King Abdullah’s sons and billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is the owner of London’s Savoy hotel and one of the world’s richest men.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have offered political asylum to any “Saudi prince or national seeking refuge that wants to flee oppression and persecution,” adding that they would be “welcomed by Yemen, their brotherly neighbor,” a source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
Mojeb said that as part of the purge the Saudi government has frozen an estimated 1,700 personal bank accounts, leaving companies and businesses so far untouched.
The purge is headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who recently formed an anti-corruption committee to fight the misuse of public funds.
As the sweep continues, the Daily Mail reports that some of the kingdom’s richest families are holding talks with banks and asset management companies to evacuate their wealth from the Saudi Arabia .
The anti-corruption actions have also impacted investors in the kingdom, “who are selling off their stock through pushing the indexes lower,” said the British daily
To stabilize the situation, the Saudi information ministry has said that the purge would not affect businesses, including those with ties to arrested suspects.