A newly-established Saudi Arabian committee with sweeping powers to combat corruption has ordered the arrest of at least 11 Saudi princes and four incumbent ministers of the Saudi government, Al-Arabiya reported, citing sources.
The committee was created Saturday by a royal decree of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, published by the Saudi official news agency on Saturday.
The decree appoints the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to lead the committee, granting it broad powers to fight corruption. The committee is exempted from “laws, regulations, instructions, orders and decision” while performing its wide range of duties, namely “identifying offenses, crimes, persons and entities” complicit in corruption, and gives it the power to impose punitive measures on those caught red-handed. Those include asset freezes, travel bans and arrests.
The committee made its first arrests hours after it was created, detaining 11 princes, four current ministers as well as “tens” of ex-ministers of the Saudi government in connection with newly opened corruption probes, Al-Arabiya reported.
The committee said it is relaunching a probe into the devastating floods that killed over 120 people in the city of Jeddah in 2009, while inflicting millions in property damage. In wake of the wide-ranging investigation, concluded in December 2014, the Saudi court found 45 people guilty, including senior officials, on charges of bribery, misuse of power and public funds, money laundering and illicit business operations.
Another high-profile case resumed by the anti-corruption committee is the investigation into the outbreak of the so-called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus in Saudi Arabia in 2014, which resulted in nearly 300 deaths and the ouster of the country’s health minister.
Following the decree, several ministers were sacked by the King, including the Minister for the National Guard, Moteib Bin Abdullah, and Economy Minister Adel al-Faqieh. However, it was not immediately clear if the government reshuffle was linked to the clampdown on corruption announced earlier.