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11 princes arrested, senior ministers ousted in sweeping anti-corruption purge in Saudi Arabia

11 princes and dozens of former ministers were detained in a new anti-corruption probe headed by the kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported.

Edited by: India TV News Desk, Riyadh [ Updated: November 05, 2017 11:35 IST ]
Image Source : AP King Salman also removed a prominent prince who headed the National Guard

In a sweeping anti-corruption purge, Saudi Arabia has arrested 11 princes including prominent billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and dozens of current and former ministers. Besides, King Salman also removed three top ministers - Economy and Planning Minister Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

Prince Miteb, one of the country's highest-level royals, was once considered a contender for the throne when his father, late King Abdullah, was the monarch. 

He was replaced by Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, who had held a senior post with the guard. 

Prince Miteb's father had also led the National Guard and had transformed it into a powerful and prestigious force tasked with protecting the ruling Al Saud family, as well as important holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and oil and gas sites. 

His ouster as head of the National Guard essentially sidelines one of the most formidable rivals to the current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has amassed enormous power in less than three years since his father, King Salman, ascended to the throne. 

It comes just three months after Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was ousted from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister, overseeing internal security. 

With the two princes now sidelined, control of the kingdom's security apparatus is now largely centralized under the Crown Prince, who is also defense minister. 

The monarch also replaced Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih with his deputy, Mohammad al-Tuwaijri. 

Admiral Abdullah Al-Sultan was also sacked as commander of Saudi Naval Forces and replaced by Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghifaili.

The action was followed by formation of a new anti-corruption committee headed by the kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

King Salman ordered the new anti-corruption campaign as part of an "active reform agenda aimed at tackling a persistent problem that has hindered development efforts in the Kingdom in recent decades", a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Communications said.

The royal decree said the committee was needed "due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds" and will "trace and combat corruption at all levels", the statement said.

The committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has the authority to investigate, arrest, issue travel bans and freeze the assets of those it finds corrupt.

It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary. 

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel reported that the committee is looking into devastating and deadly floods that overwhelmed parts of the city of Jiddah in 2009 and is investigating the Saudi government's response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that has killed several hundred people in the past few years. 

The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, stirring rumours that it would be used to house detained royals, reported The New York Times. 

The airport for private planes was closed, arousing speculation that the crown prince was seeking to block rich businessmen from fleeing before more arrests.

Meanwhile, the kingdom's top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption— essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported. 

Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by people in power. 

The 32-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has been seeking to attract greater international investments and improve the country's reputation as a place to do business. It's part of a larger effort to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil revenue.

(With agencies) 

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