Saudi Arabia begins investigating detainees who did not settle, newspaper reports

Time: April 08, 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has begun investigations and opening arguments in the corruption cases of princes, top officials and businessmen who were detained late last year, an official told pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat on Sunday.
Authorities rounded up dozens of people in November on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s orders, with many confined and interrogated at Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Most of them, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government. But 56 people who had not reached settlements remained in custody and could face trial, the government said late in January.
Saud Al-Hamad, deputy attorney general for investigations, told Al Sharq Al Awsat that whoever is charged will be referred to court for prosecution in cases related to money laundering or terrorism. He provided no other details about the suspects.
Hamad said some of those under investigation had failed to respect confidential agreements while others committed further, unspecified, offenses.
The anti-corruption campaign is part of Crown Prince Mohammed’s push to transform an oil-dependent economy long plagued by graft but now contending with lower global crude prices. But it remains shrouded in secrecy with few specific allegations or details of financial settlements revealed.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi crown prince says focus on “end not means” of reforms, hints at Israel cooperation

Time: 5 April 2018

Mohammed bin Salman was speaking to Time magazine for an April cover story

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said observers should focus on the “end, not the means” as he leads reform efforts that have seen top businessmen detained and new rights given to women.

The heir to the throne’s comments were made in an interview with US publication Time magazine for the cover of the April 16 issue as he reaches the final leg of a US tour that has spanned multiple cities and included meetings with President Trump and top executives.

Major agreements have been announced during the three-week visit and the crown prince has been hosted by the world’s richest men, while overseeing deals for cinemas, technology, military equipment and more.


During the interview, he repeated many of his previous comments regarding the hijacking of Islam after 1979 and the rise of fundamentalism in the kingdom and other countries.

“We believe the practice today in a few countries, among them Saudi Arabia, is not the practice of Islam,” he told Time.

“It’s the practice of people who have hijacked Islam after 1979.”

Bin Salman was also asked questions regarding his rise to power after replacing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince last June and launching a November corruption crackdown that saw hundreds of businessmen, royals and officials hand over billions of dollars in exchange for their release from detention.

The crown prince reportedly told the publication he had no plans to dilute the Saudi monarchy’s power and encouraged a focus on the results of his reforms, which have included the opening of the kingdom’s first cinemas in decades this month and a decision to allow women to drive, rather than the means of getting there.


“What we should focus on is the end, not the means,” he was quoted saying. “If the means are taking us to that end, that good end, and everyone agrees on it, it will be good.”

Bin Salman said these ends included freedom of speech, improved employment, economic growth, security and stability, according to the publication.

Another topic of discussion was the war in Yemen, where the kingdom has led a coalition of Arab states in support of forces loyal to the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi since 2015.

The crown prince did not rule out sending troops into the country in contrast to a campaign that has so far mostly focussed on air strikes, but said he didn’t want the conflict across the border to impact everyday life in the kingdom, according to the publication.

“We want to be assured that whatever happens, the Saudi people shouldn’t feel it,” he said. “The economy shouldn’t be harmed or even feel it. So we are trying to be sure that we are far away from whatever escalation happens.”

In other comments, he denied that Saudi Arabia spread extremist ideology, suggesting instead it was “the biggest victim” of the practice.

He said the government under his leadership was intent on undoing lessons taught by extremists and had Islamic teachings on its side.

“If someone comes and says women cannot participate in sport. The Prophet, he raced with his wife. If someone comes and says women cannot do business, the wife of the Prophet, she was a businesswoman, and he used to work for her as Prophet. So the Prophet’s practice is on our side.”

The crown prince also did not rule out closer cooperation with Israel, following recent comments in an interview with The Atlantic appearing to support the country’s right to its own nation-state.

Ties between the Saudi Arabia and Israel have reportedly grown closer behind the scenes, despite the former still not officially acknowledging Israel’s existence, in response to the aggression of regional rival Iran.

“We have a common enemy, and it seems that we have a lot of potential areas to have economic cooperation,” Mohammed bin Salman said.

“We cannot have relations with Israel before solving the peace issue with the Palestinians because both of them they have the right to live and coexist,” he explained.

But “when it happens, of course next day we’ll have good and normal relation with Israel and it will be in the best for everyone”.

The crown prince’s inclusion on the Time cover follows a poll on the magazine’s website in December that saw him ranked ‘person of the year’ by online readers.

The vote was separate from Time’s actual ‘person of the year’ selected by editorial staff.

This article was first published in Gulf Business

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Saudi- Director of UNODC’s Division of Treaty Affairs: KSA leads G20 countries on privatization

Time: April 05, 2018

Riyadh, Rajab 19, 1439, April 05, 2018, SPA — The Director of National Anti-Corruption Commission and UNODC’s Division of Treaty Affairs, John Brandolino, has praised the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in fighting corruption, stressing that it led the G20 countries on the subject of privatization, expressing his aspirations to work and cooperate with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) in the field of protecting integrity and combating corruption in public and private sectors.
This came during his speech at the opening ceremony of the Third Nazaha International Conference organized by National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) entitled “Protecting Integrity and Fighting Corruption in Privatization Programs”, which was patronized on behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh Region.
On the sidelines of the opening ceremony, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) by President of National Anti-Corruption Commission Dr. Khaled bin Abdulmohsen Al-Muhaisen and Director of National Anti-Corruption Commission and UNODC’s Division of Treaty Affairs, Director John Brandolino.

This article was first published in MENAFN

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Saudi anti-corruption sweep will reach low-level cases: official

Time: April 04, 2018

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Tuesday that the government campaign against corruption, which targeted the business and political elite last year, would work its way through lower-level offences.

“The campaign is ongoing as long as there is even a simple case (of corruption) … and it will not end until (all) corruption cases are finished,” prosecutor Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb told state television in a clip posted online, without providing details.

Authorities rounded up dozens of princes, top officials and businessmen in November on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s orders, with many confined and interrogated at Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Most detainees, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government, which says it arranged to seize more than $100 billion through such deals.

The Ritz was cleared out and reopened to the public in February, though 56 people who had not reached settlements by then remained in custody and could face trial.

Prince Mohammed is currently touring the United States to promote investment in the kingdom, touting the corruption sweep as critical to transforming an oil-dependent economy long plagued by graft but now contending with lower global crude prices.

Yet the campaign remains shrouded in secrecy with few specific allegations or details of financial settlements revealed.

This article was first published in Reuters

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Saudi anti-corruption drive paying off, says attorney general

Time: April 04, 2018

Manama: Saudi Arabia has begun to reap the benefits of the massive anti-corruption campaign in all facilities, the kingdom’s attorney general has said.

“The campaign against graft will remain as long as there is corruption, even in minor issues,” Saud Al Mojeb told Saudi news television Al Ikbariya on Tuesday.

“There are cases being addressed by the prosecution and Saudis would soon hear good news about the anti-graft campaign.”

The Attorney General, a member of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee set up in November to fight corruption, did not provide further details.

In January, he said that 56 corruption suspects, out of 381 high-profile figures, including ministers, businessmen and officials detained after the formation of the committee, were still held on graft charges.

Out of court settlements with the other suspects had topped SR400 billion in various forms of assets, which include real estate, commercial entities, securities and cash, he said.

The committee is headed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and comprises the President of the Control and Investigation Board, the President of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the President of the General Auditing Bureau, the Attorney General at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the head of the Presidency of State Security.

Saudi Arabia said the committee’s objective is to discipline the efforts to trace and combat corruption at all levels.

“It will log offenses and crimes related to individuals and entities in cases of corruption involving public funds, investigate cases, issue arrest warrants, travel restrictions, disclose and freeze portfolios and accounts,” they said.

“Its powers include the ability to trace funds and assets, and prevent their transfer or liquidation on behalf of individuals or entities along with the right to take any precautionary actions until cases are referred to relevant investigatory or judiciary authorities.”

Saudi Arabia launched an anti-corruption drive in November, rounding up hundreds of suspects including some of the country’s richest individuals and government ministers.

Billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal was among those detailed at the 492-room Ritz-Carlton, as was former Finance Minister Ebrahim Al Assaf and Adel Al Fakeih, who was removed as minister of economy and planning on the eve of the arrests.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption campaign has netted more than $106 billion (Dh389 billion, 400 billion riyal) in financial settlements.

According to a statement issued by the government’s information office, Al Mojeb also said that the settlement represented various types of assets including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets.

This article was first published in Gulf News

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Saudi Arabia making all-out efforts to fight graft

Time: April 16, 2018

RIYADH: Protecting integrity and fighting corruption in privatization programs is the subject of the third International Nazaha Conference to be launched on Wednesday under the patronage of King Salman.
Organized by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), the conference will take place at a local hotel.
Dr. Khaled bin Abdulmohsen Al-Muhaisen, president of Nazaha, has thanked King Salman for sponsoring the conference, which he said is part of Saudi Arabia’s continuous efforts to fight corruption at the local and international levels in line with its Vision 2030. The Kingdom is keen to involve the international community in enhancing these efforts and to benefit from the experiences of other countries and international organizations, he said.
Dr. Bandar bin Ahmed Abalkhail and Abdulmohsen bin Mohammed Al-Monaif, vice presidents of the commission, said Nazaha has endless support from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Abalkhail said the Kingdom had started implementing many programs including privatization, and the commission is working on achieving its objectives in this field to benefit from global experiences and practices through the organization of conferences on transparency, integrity and anti-corruption.
The conference aims to raise awareness of the importance of fighting corruption, discussing the risks of corruption and appropriate preventive measures, and discussing the impact of privatization programs in reducing corruption practices.
The conference will host 36 experts from within and outside the Kingdom and will include six sessions and three workshops.
Dr. Khalid bin Saleh Al-Sultan, Rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, will be the first keynote speaker, and the second will be Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Madhy, president of the General Establishment of Military Industries.
The first session will be entitled “Protecting Integrity in Privatization Programs” and will cover the following topics: Corruption risk assessment, ways to strengthen preventive measures, the role of competent entities in following up the privatization process, the efficiency of laws, policies and procedures, and the role of civil society institutions and the media.
Keynote speaker of day two will be Dr. Christopher MacKee, chief executive at The PRS Group.
Nazaha will hold three workshops specializing in fighting corruption.

This article was first published in Arab News

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When Disruption Is a Royal Prerogative

Time: April 01, 2018

With the kingdom’s oil wealth dwindling, the Saudi heir purges his rivals and the elite. But to what purpose?

By Peter Waldman and Glen Carey

—With Vivian Nereim and Alaa Shahine

It makes sense to be cynical about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ostensible crackdown on corruption in Saudi Arabia. Among the 11 princes, 4 ministers, and dozens of well-known businessmen arrested were some of the 32-year-old’s last potential rivals to the Saudi throne. The move also smacks of an asset snatch. Police nabbed 3 of the Arab world’s 10 richest men, including investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (page 25), the billionaire best known for rescuing Citicorp in 1991 and making big bets on Apple Inc. and 21st Century Fox Inc. But was it only a Machiavellian power play? Or is this the start of a dramatic, go-for-broke attempt to transform a country that’s resisted change for decades?

Prince Mohammed seems to be playing the equally ruthless roles of autocrat and reformer. The millennial has been outspoken about his bold plans to modernize Saudi society and wean the kingdom from fossil fuel. Now, Prince Mohammed has locked up globe-trotting tycoons and other dynastic rivals, sending shock waves across the desert and around the world. Since Saudi Arabia’s founding in 1932 by his grandfather, Abdulaziz Al Saud, successive kings have sought consensus among the family’s thousands of princes, balancing religious, princely, and tribal factions to maintain stability in the world’s largest oil supplier. Decisions were made at a glacial pace, often capped with generous payouts for anyone left unhappy. Prince Mohammed has smashed that conservative status quo in an act, he no doubt believes, of creative destruction.

This is a man of dead-certain belief in himself, who told this magazine in a long, autobiographical interview in April 2016 that his childhood experiences among princes and potentates were more valuable and formative than Steve Jobs’s, Mark Zuckerberg’s, and Bill Gates’s. So, he wondered aloud, “if I work according to their methods, what will I create?” Now we know his disruptive potential.

The prince’s unprecedented arrest of a who’s who of Saudi society is a first stab at fulfilling his vow to hold the corrupt accountable. “I confirm to you, no one will survive in a corruption case—whoever he is, even if he’s a prince or a minister,” Prince Mohammed said in a televised interview in May. The vow has now become a Twitter sensation among Saudis under the age of 30, who make up 70 percent of the population, the demographic bulge the prince has made his base. They’re still plenty skeptical of Prince Mohammed and his father the king, who recently visited Moscow with 1,500 retainers, his own carpets, and a golden escalator for his Boeing 747.

No one imagined the crown prince would go so far. The takedown, set up by his father, King Salman, through a new anticorruption commission that Prince Mohammed chairs, rounded up his most visible potential adversary, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. A favored son of the late King Abdullah, who died in 2015, Miteb, 65, commanded the Saudi National Guard, which, until his arrest, had been the last military branch not under Prince Mohammed’s control.

Other detainees included princes and ministers who have been linked to questionable, if not corrupt, transactions. Prince Turki bin Nasser, for example, is infamous for his involvement in the so-called Al Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia, a massive sale that led to corruption probes in the U.K. and the U.S. Adel Fakeih, a top economic policymaker before his Nov. 4 arrest, was mayor of Jeddah during a flood in 2009 during which scores of people died because of the failure of infrastructure, apparently shoddily made. Dozens of people were convicted of criminal charges including bribery, but not Fakeih, who was never charged and went on to serve as a minister in Riyadh for an additional half-dozen years.

Ever since the floods, Abdullah Jaber, a popular Saudi cartoonist, has drawn caricatures of Fakeih, without naming him, to symbolize the toll of corruption on Saudi Arabia. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he read Fakeih had been arrested and that the Jeddah flood case had been reopened. “I still can’t absorb the greatness of what has happened,” Jaber said in a Twitter post.

In total, the government froze bank accounts of the more than three dozen men detained, putting about $33 billion of personal wealth at risk. Three of the detainees, Alwaleed among them, own three of the largest privately held television networks in the country. Saudi authorities also moved to freeze the private accounts of hundreds more suspected of corruption but not yet arrested. The crackdown is Prince Mohammed’s strongest blow yet at the rentier state, the system of gatekeepers, sinecures, and handouts that’s sapped the incentive in Saudi Arabia for entrepreneurship to flourish, the prince has said.

The question now, for hopeful Saudi and foreign investors, is whether the prince builds on the anticorruption momentum with new rules to open up an economy until now dominated by princes and their cronies as well as wealthy families. Ayham Kamel, a director with Eurasia Group, says the crackdown will help. “Mohammed bin Salman is in effect taking steps to separate the Al Saud family from the state,” Kamel wrote in a note on Nov. 6. “The process of destroying old elite networks that monopolized access to profitable contracts bodes well for the business environment.”

Robert Jordan, the former corporate lawyer who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador in Riyadh, said if Prince Mohammed’s anticorruption campaign is real, “it will add credibility to the Saudi business posture, to its operations, and to the potential IPO of Aramco,” the Saudi national oil company. “If it turns out to simply be a power grab,” he told Bloomberg Television, “then I think it will hurt the Saudis in the long run and certainly hurt this crown prince.”

One downside, of course, is more repression, wielded by a headstrong prince cocksure he knows what’s best for society. He told Bloomberg last month that a $500 billion city he wants to build on the Red Sea “represents a civilizational leap for humanity,” with a bayside community to become “like the Hamptons in New York.” While the prince has reined in the religious police and taken the once-unthinkable step of allowing women to drive, he’s shown little interest in participatory governance. The government has promised a transparent judicial process for the detainees but still hasn’t disclosed specific charges against any of them.

“The one positive thing is that maybe things will get more equitable, more meritocratic,” says a young Saudi management consultant who, tellingly, declines to be named. “It’s also scary. There’s no due process, and people can disappear.”

Some Saudis are nervous that Prince Mohammed’s bellicose campaign against Iran will lead to war. Nerves frayed on Nov. 4 when a missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen was shot down on its way to Riyadh, the farthest encroachment yet into Saudi territory by a Houthi-fired missile. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the missile and said they reserved the right to respond. Iran rejected the allegation and accused Saudi Arabia of threatening an attack. The kingdom has also intensified its anti-Iran rhetoric over proxy conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. “Confrontations will widen with Iran’s unchecked expansion,” Abdulrahman Al Rashid, a prominent columnist for the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, wrote on Nov. 7. “Strengthening local militias in unstable countries remains the only path forward.”

The prince is racing the clock. When he and his father came to power in 2015, oil prices had recently plummeted, leaving the country in imminent danger of a budget meltdown. They slashed spending and reduced subsidies for energy and water, grounding the economy to a halt. With little prospect that oil prices will rise much higher, the country has only about four more years at its current rate of deficit spending until its currency reserves are depleted. “Four years is not a long time; time is running out,” says Ziad Daoud, an economist with Bloomberg Intelligence.

Recent history doesn’t bode well for anticorruption reformers, Daoud says. Chinese President Xi Jinping instituted a similar purge for a few years, only to backtrack on economic reforms after some of his rivals had been vanquished, the economist says. And each time the prince has assumed more power, such as in June when he usurped his older cousin as crown prince, he’s given generous handouts to the public.

“This time could be different. You never know,” Daoud says. “Now that Prince Mohammed has unrivaled and unprecedented power, he may forge ahead with his reform agenda. It’s highly uncertain.”

This article was first published in MAGTER

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Saudi Ministry of Justice penalizes notary public for $106 mln fraud

Time: March 27, 2018

The Ministry of Justice seized the records and properties of the head of a notary public office for committing violations while he was on the job.

The Ministry of Justice previously reported that the head of the notary office and a number of employees were under investigation for committing fraud and extorting SR400 million.

Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice with the names and ID numbers of the head of the notary office, his three wives and 29 children after he was proven guilty of fraud and extortion.

Ministry of Justice Spokesman Sheikh Mansour Al-Qafari said the ministry runs regular auditing on all transactions by the notaries public.

“The ministry detected discrepancies in the notary records. All individuals involved were investigated and the ministry found out that ownership deeds of a land that cost SR400 million were forged. The head of the notary office was involved in the fraudulent transaction and the ministry seized his properties as well as records in his office,” said Al-Qafari.

This article was first published in Anti-Corruption Digest

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Saudi provinces to get Public Prosecution units

Time: March 22, 2018

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution will set up investigation units in every province of the Kingdom, including the Tabuk region, Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al-Mojeb said. Speaking during a tour of Tabuk, Al-Mojeb said the move would “achieve justice and reach positive outcomes in cases sent to the Public Prosecution.”
The Public Prosecution is determined to exercise its full powers, and protect public and private rights, particularly in its investigations into corruption, he said. “The doors of the Public Prosecution are always open to all parties concerned with the fight against corruption,” Al-Mojeb said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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