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Saudi Arabia detains more than 200 people in widening crackdown

The swoop comes shortly after Saudi Arabia told citizens living in Lebanon to leave the country
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen to be consolidating power with the crackdown

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday 201 people have been held for questioning in an anti-graft swoop, just days after dozens of members of the country's elite were arrested in a widespread crackdown. 

"A total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far. Of those 208 individuals, seven have been released without charge," the information ministry said in a statement. 

It said that in three years of investigations it had uncovered at least $100 billion had been lost through embezzlement and corruption, over several decades. 

The detentions are the latest stage in the biggest purge of the kingdom's elite in its modern history, one analysts have called an attempt to tighten the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

They were announced shortly after Saudi Arabia told citizens living in Lebanon to leave the country "due to the circumstances in the Lebanese Republic".

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on Saturday in a shock declaration read from Saudi Arabia, pitching Lebanon into deep political crisis and pushing the country back to the forefront of a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The purge came just after an anti-graft commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was established on Saturday. 

Billionaire tycoon Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, dubbed Saudi Arabia's Warren Buffett, was among the high-profile figures arrested or sacked last weekend.

Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that assets related to the corruption cases would be seized as state property, as the government appears set to widen the crackdown.

With the purge, which analysts describe as a bold but risky power play, Prince Mohammed has centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.

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