Saudi’s crackdown on rogue and corrupt elements delves deeper
Following Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s (MBS) corruption purge in November of 2017, his attention is now turned further within, making sure his government purges any rogue elements that could hinder Saudi’s ascension to global business dominance.
The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi seems to have turned attention inwardly, but also outwardly, seeking to tackle the remnants of the corruption probe, which started late 2017, and which led to the eventual incarceration of several key business figures in the Kingdom.
Restructuring the General Intelligence Presidency
According to the Saudi Press Agency, a ministerial committee was formed under the chairmanship of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to restructure the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP), the Kingdom’s primary intelligence agency.
Under the move, the agency will update its statute and regulations, delineate its powers, and evaluate the procedures, methods, and authorities regulating its work as well as its chain of command and hierarchy in a manner that guarantees proper functioning and assignment of responsibilities.
It seems that this restructuring was heavily triggered by the Khashoggi controversy, as the Saudi Press Agency reported that the new committee held its first meeting on October 25, 23 days after the Saudi journalist’s death.
Saudi has stated the assassination was conducted by rogue elements among the Kingdom’s GIP, led by General Ahmad Al-Assiri, who along with 4 other royal officials was fired, while 18 other suspects were arrested. The assassination was allegedly conducted by a specialist squad.
The committee then held several subsequent meetings to evaluate the status quo and identify gaps in the organizational structure, policies, procedures, governance, legal frameworks, and qualification mechanisms.
After Saudi commenced its corruption purge in 2017, $800 billion in assets and funds belonging to the corrupted parties were identified, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Ever since, the anti-corruption ‘Special Committee’ has been after more than $100bn in cash or asset settlements to recoup what it claims are monies illegally obtained by the alleged parties.
In 2018, $13.3 billion in cash settlements from the anti-corruption campaign were collected, Saudi’s finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said during a news conference in Riyadh.
As for 2019, he expects that cash settlements from the anti-corruption campaign will “not [be] significantly less” than the $13.3 billion in 2018.
He also said in a Reuters interview that construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, in which the government took a roughly one-third stake under the campaign, would soon have a “normal board” with family members and representatives of government ownership.
He added that the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has no role in a ministry-owned company that is managing assets seized through settlements with dozens of Saudi elite detained last year under the corruption purge.
Phase 2: Sentencing is underway
It was never specifically stated who was among the 200+ people detained. Dozens of Saudi princes, businessmen and government officials became part of the probe, which at one point involved 350 defendants. Some notable people were identified, such as Saudi Prince AlWaleed bin Talal, billionaire businessman Bakr Bin Laden, and Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi.
Saudi Prince AlWaleed has long been released after a detention stint at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel but the nature of his negotiations with authorities have not been made public.
Al-Amoudi was officially charged with bribery and corruption, a Saudi official said this week, according to Bloomberg. He has been detained for more than a year now.
He had a net worth of $8.1 billion as of March last year, according to Forbes. He owns several industrial operations across the globe.
As for the rest of the detainees, most of them were released earlier this year. Those whose did not pay settlements, or those whose cases were still unresolved, are still being held, Bloomberg explained. They were moved outside the Ritz-Carlton to a holding facility in February of this year. The government has never officially announced who was freed, who remains in custody or what charges they face.