Saudi Arabia sets up anti-corruption office

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has set up an office to monitor state spending and expand the fight against corruption, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The setting up of Nazaha, the anti-corruption office, will end the 15-month anti-corruption crackdown led by 34-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

The crackdown in November 2017 saw hundreds of elite princes, ministers and businessmen held at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital. While many were detained for weeks in the upmarket hotel, most were released after agreeing to significant financial settlements.

Bin Salman, colloquially known as MbS, had defended his campaign as “shock therapy” in a bid to develop and diversify the economy. He said the crackdown would continue under the Nazaha office, which would be part of the General Auditing Bureau.

The royal court said the crackdown resulted into $106 billion for the state exchequer via settlements. The government summoned 381 people, some as witnesses, under the campaign.

It said 87 people confessed to charges against them and reached secret settlements that included forfeiture of real estate, companies, cash and other assets, according to SPA.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-graft sweep was labelled by some critics as a shakedown and power grab, but authorities insisted the purge targeted endemic corruption.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 84, who assumed power on January 23, 2015, said the government would continue to protect public funds.