Saudi 'anti-corruption' purge ends, yielding $107bn for the state

Saudi 'anti-corruption' purge ends, yielding $107bn for the state

Officials in Riyadh announced on Wednesday they have recovered assets totalling more than $106bn in an anti-corruption crackdown ordered in 2017 by the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In a statement, the royal court confirmed the Saudi authorities had summoned or detained 381 people as part of the unprecedented campaign launched in November 2017.

The statement said the authorities reached settlements with princes, businessmen and government officials that included the seizure of assets ranging from real estate and companies to cash and investments.

The court in Riyadh declined to settle the cases of 56 people owing to existing criminal charges having aleady been filed against them.

Although the purge has officially ended, it was not clear when travel bans, bank account freezes and monitoring of some now released would come to an end.

In the first three months of the crackdown, several of the country's most prominent political and business leaders, including the international investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and two of the late king's sons, were detained in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Following the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, the kingdom has been at pains to improve its battered image abroad, and reverse dwindling levels of FDI. Earlier this week the crown prince, known as MbS, announced a $427-bn plan to boost the country's nascent logistics and manufacturing sectors over the next ten years. 

Yet many overseas continue to view Saudi Arabia with great caution. Karen Young, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told Reuters: "On Saudi foreign policy and domestic politics, particularly towards citizen activists, there is still deep apprehension in the West."

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.