Riyadh 'makes more arrests in anti-graft purge'
Saudi Arabia has made more arrests and frozen more bank accounts in a growing anti-corruption crackdown that has netted dozens of royals and high-profile businessmen.
Saudi authorities have frozen over 1,700 domestic bank accounts since the purge began on Saturday, including the accounts of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was recently ousted as Crown Prince, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The sources, who spoke anonymously, said a number of other individuals suspected of wrongdoing have been detained in an expansion of the crackdown.
They added that since Sunday the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis.
Late Saturday, authorities in the Gulf powerhouse launched what they said was an anti-graft drive which has seen the arrest of dozens of leading businessmen and politicians.
Those detained included billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal and the head of the national guard, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah.
Powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the arrest orders after he became head of the Anti-Corruption Committee created earlier the same day.
Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that the crackdown could in fact be more a case of internal power politics.
"The middle-of-the-night simultaneous establishment of a new corruption body and mass arrests over corruption raise concerns that Saudi authorities detained people en masse and without outlining the basis of the detentions," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based HRW.
"While Saudi media are framing these measures as Mohammed bin Salman's move against corruption, the mass arrests suggest this may be more about internal power politics," she said.
HRW said the mass arrest of princes, current and former government ministers and officials as well as prominent businessmen raises human rights concerns.
Saudi authorities should immediately reveal the legal and evidentiary basis for each person's detention and ensure that each can exercise due process rights, it said.
Riyadh has defended the arrests as legal, saying that the suspects had been subjected to extensive investigation.