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Saudi Arabia arrests 45 in latest 'anti-corruption' drive

Authorities arrest dozens of people, including military officers, and seize $160m as part of kingdom's wide-ranging campaign
Shortly after coming to power, Mohammed bin Salman launched a purge of high-profile officials and businessmen in the kingdom
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh (AFP/File photo)

Saudi authorities arrested at least 45 people, including military officers and public servants, as part of kingdom's so-called anti-corruption drive.

An anti-corruption body known as Nazaha said in a statement on Thursday that it had begun almost 900 investigations for criminal and disciplinary cases, including probes into "suspicion over corruption, profiteering and influence peddling of public posts".

Those arrested included four army officers and five defence ministry contractors over suspicion of profiteering in a project.

Another 14 people, including two police officers, were detained over alleged embezzlement and bribery. Some were workers in the country's ministries of justice, transport, and human resources.

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Authorities also seized funds and real estate assets worth $160m, the statement said.

Previous waves of detention have been widely condemned by critics and rights groups that accuse Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of utilising anti-corruption sentiments to purge potential rivals to the crown or anyone deemed a threat to his rule.

Scores of the kingdom's economic and political elite were detained in 2017 at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel in a crackdown that unsettled some foreign investors.

The royal court said last year it was winding down that campaign after 15 months, but authorities later said they would start going after graft by ordinary government employees.

Still, in a bid to shore up his rule, MBS has levelled corruption and disloyalty charges against several of his rivals in recent months, including his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef. He's also arrested his uncle Prince Faisal bin Abdullah al-Saud, the son of the late King Abdullah.

In September, MBS dismissed princes Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Abdulaziz bin Fahd from their positions and referred the two to the anti-corruption watchdog for investigation.

The crown prince also sacked a number of senior Saudi security commanders in August over graft allegations at tourism projects.

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