Prince to pauper: Saudi Arabia to freeze bank accounts of detained officials
Saudi Arabia has announced that the bank accounts of dozens of high-profile figures arrested in an anti-corruption sweep will be frozen, as part of new measures in a sweeping purge of the kingdom's upper ranks on Saturday and Sunday
"The accounts and balances of those detained will be revealed and frozen. Any asset or property related to these cases of corruption will be registered as state property," the kingdom's information ministry said on Sunday.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said the crackdown "heralds a new era and policy of transparency, clarity and accountability".
"The decisive decisions will preserve the investment environment and boost trust in the rule of law," the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying.
The kingdom's top council of clerics also lauded the anti-corruption efforts as "important", essentially giving religious backing to the crackdown.
Prominent billionaire al-Waleed bin Talal was among the princes arrested, late Saturday, a government source told AFP, immediately after a new anti-corruption commission headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was established by royal decree.
Separately, the head of the Saudi National Guard - once a leading contender to the throne - as well as the navy chief and the economy minister were replaced in a series of high-profile sackings that sent shock waves through the kingdom.
The dramatic shake-up comes at a time of unprecedented social and economic transformation in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, as Prince Mohammed steps up his reform drive for a post-oil era.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television reported that 11 princes, four current ministers and dozens of ex-ministers were arrested as the commission launched a probe into old cases such as floods that devastated the Red Sea city of Jeddah in 2009.
The government official gave AFP a list of 14 of the most high-profile names including Prince Al-Waleed, ranked among the richest men in the world.
The information ministry separately said the bank accounts of those arrested will be "frozen" and any assets related to the corruption cases will be registered as state property.
"The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen," Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement, adding that a number of investigations had been initiated.
"A suspect's position or status does not influence the firm and fair application of justice."
The purge comes less than two weeks after Prince Mohammed welcomed thousands of global business leaders to Riyadh for an investment summit, showcasing his reform drive that has shaken up the kingdom.