Saudi riyal banknotes. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s state anti-corruption watchdog said it was handling a number of criminal and disciplinary cases involving multi-million-riyal graft amid an intensified swoop in the kingdom on illicit deals, local media reported.

In one case, a retired National Guard major general and two senior officials were arrested on suspicion of involvement in SR198 million corruption and influence peddling offences, an official at the Control and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) disclosed.

The ex-general received SR20.5million, of which SR1.5 million was from an Austrian company in exchange for recommendations to influential officials.

A part of the amount was received in cash and the remainder was through the purchase of real estate under his name as well as transferring part of it to businessmen for investment to return the money later, the authority added.

The second suspect received an amount of SR30.2 million in cash payments, while the third suspect illegally got SR147.4 million , also partly in cash and the remainder through the purchase of properties under his name, Nazaha said.

The suspect illegally obtained a total amount of SR198.1 million , in exchange for facilitating the procedures of awarding and disbursement to these companies, the official said.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up a crackdown on white-collar corruption, nabbing civil servants and entrepreneurs.

In the second case, the director general of projects at the previously Ministry of Higher Education and five businessmen were arrested on suspicion of corruption. The first have allegedly set companies with the other suspects and obtain through these companies projects at exaggerated prices in the ministry, obliging other contracting companies to deal with his own companies and receive bribes for that.

In the third case, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was arrested for allegedly spending SR733,000 in an irregular manner from the account of one of the Kingdom’s embassies.

In the fourth case, an official of the Ministry of Media was arrested for allegedly issuing 328 media licenses and stealing an amount of approximately SR700,000, through repeatedly using the same payment number, which represents the licenses issuing fees.

In the fifth case, two officials at the Ministry of Finance a Saudi real estate owner and an agent were arrested, after they allegedly obtained SR126,000 out of a total amount of SR8.1 million in bribes for facilitating the payment of compensations.

In the sixth case, director general of operation and maintenance, director of financial and administrative affairs, and building supervisor in an education department were arrested for illegally obtaining SR624,000 in cash installments from a businessman in exchange for the facilitation of awarding seven projects worth SR3.2 million .

In the seventh case, a notary was arrested for issuing a replacement for a lost deed to one of his relatives in an irregular manner.

In the eighth case, a captain at the General Directorate of Narcotics Control was arrested for illegally obtaining SR35,000 from an Arab expatriate in exchange for not pursuing a case related to the expatriate’s brother.

In the ninth case, an official of the Saudi Electricity Company and a government employee (mediator) were arrested after the mediator allegedly received SR85,000, in exchange for connecting electricity to a building which failed legal requirements.

In the tenth case, a bank official was arrested for allegedly receiving SR21,000 from some bank clients in exchange for processing their financing applications.

In the eleventh case, two municipal officials were arrested for illegally receiving SR25,000 in exchange for overlooking the violation of removing a site that belongs to a company.

Nazaha has affirmed it will continue to pursue anyone who exploits the public office to achieve personal gain or harm the public interest in any way, and that the accountability extends far beyond the retirement of any official, as the crimes of financial and administrative corruption have no statute of limitations, and that it will apply the full force of law against offenders with zero tolerance.