Riyadh: An anti-corruption probe that has seen the arrest of several Saudi royals, ministers and businessmen appeared to be widening on Monday after the founder of one of the kingdom’s biggest travel companies was reportedly detained.
Shares in Al Tayyar Travel plunged 10 per cent in the opening minutes of trade after the company quoted media reports as saying Nasser Bin Aqeel Al Tayyar, who is still a board member, had been held by authorities.
The company gave no details but online economic news service SABQ, which is close to the government, reported Al Tayyar had been detained in an investigation by a new anti-corruption body headed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
Dozens of people have been detained in the crackdown, which has been hailed by citizens who say its a move towards greater transparency and justice in the country.
Billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s best-known international investor, is also being held, officials told Reuters.
The front page of Okaz, a leading Saudi newspaper, challenged businessmen on Monday to reveal the sources of their assets, asking: “Where did you get this?” in a bright red headline.
Pan-Arab newspaper Al Asharq Al Awsat reported that a no-fly list had been drawn up and security forces in some Saudi airports were barring owners of private jets from taking off without a permit.
Among those detained are 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers, according to Saudi officials.
The allegations against the men include money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain, a Saudi official told Reuters.
Those accusations could not be independently verified and family members of those detained could not be reached.
A royal decree on Saturday said the crackdown was in response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money”.
The round-up also targeted Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah, who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard.
Many ordinary Saudis have praised the round-up of princes and ministers as long-awaited and needed to modernise the economy.
In September, King Salman announced that a ban on women driving would be lifted, while Prince Mohammad is trying to break decades of conservative tradition by promoting public entertainment and visits by foreign tourists.
He has also slashed state spending in some areas and plans a $300 billion sale of state assets, including floating part of state oil giant Saudi Aramco on international markets.
Held Saudi ex-officials face up to 10 years in jail
Manama: The former ministers and officials held by the Saudi authorities in a massive anti-corruption drive could face up to 10 years in jail under the ministers’ trial in the Saudi law.
Article Five of the law which deals with ministers and officials holding the rank of ministers stipulates a prison sentence between three and five years for breaching the oath taken before the king, Saudi daily Al Watan posted its website.
The detainees were not true with God and with the king, failed to protect the interests of the state and did not carry out their work with honesty, sincerity and loyalty, the daily added.