x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

New Saudi committee to investigate public corruption opens 'new era of transparency'

Chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the body will be able to issue arrest warrants, ban people from travel, freeze accounts and track funds

A new committee to investigate public corruption led by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured, has been announced. Courtesy Saudi Press Agency
A new committee to investigate public corruption led by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured, has been announced. Courtesy Saudi Press Agency

Saudi Arabia's "supreme committee" to investigate public corruption will open "a new era of transparency and accountability", the country's finance ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry added that the new committee, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will enhance confidence in the rule of law and improve the climate for investment in the kingdom.

The committee, established in a series of royal decrees announced late on Saturday, is the latest measure introduced by Saudi Arabia to support its drive for improved economic performance and oversight of public finances.

The orders also detailed the removal of two prominent ministers from their posts: Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, minister of national guard, and Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, minister of economy and planning.

Both men were reportedly among the dozens of Saudi government officials and businessmen detained in an anti-corruption crackdown.

Riyadh announced the arrests — which included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the kingdom’s most prominent tycoons — shortly after the disclosure of the royal decree ordering the formation of the anti-corruption committee.

The new committee will be tasked with identifying "offences, crimes, persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption", according to the royal decree.

It will have wide-ranging powers, including "the investigation, issuance of arrest warrants, travel ban, disclosure and freezing of accounts and portfolios, tracking of funds, assets and preventing their remittance or transfer by persons and entities, whatever they might be", said the decree, which was published by the official Saudi Press Agency (Spa).

Its powers will also include the seizure of assets of individuals or entities that have been found to have taken or abused public funds.

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The committee was granted "the right to take any precautionary measures it sees fit [against those found to be corrupt], until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies".

The strongly-worded decree said the decision was made "in view of what we have noticed of exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly, accrue money", without naming any individuals or entities.

The committee will have to submit a detailed report to the Saudi king on its findings, though no time frame for this report was announced.

The body's members will include the chairman of the Saudi Monitoring and Investigation Commission, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Authority, chief of the General Audit Bureau, the attorney general and the head of State Security.

Prince Mohammed, who will lead the committee, was promoted to crown prince of Saudi Arabia on June 21. He is also first deputy prime minister and the youngest minister of defence in the world. Prince Mohammed is the architect of the country’s economic diversity plan, Vision 2030.

The majority of Saudis are young, with at least half the population under the age of 25. Like many of the country's youth — among whom Prince Mohammed is very popular — the 32-year-old is dynamic and impatient for change. He is seen as someone willing to challenge the sometimes stultifying bureaucracy.

The decrees announced late on Saturday also outlined cabinet changes, namely the key ministries of the national guard, and economy and planning. They said that Prince Miteb, son of the late Saudi King Abdullah, had been "sacked", to be replaced with Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf Al Muqren, according to Spa.

The orders also said Mr Faqih had been "relieved of his post" as minister of economy and planning, to be replaced by Mohammed bin Mazyad Al Tuwaijri.

A further royal decree announced the end of the tenure of Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al Sultan, commander of the Saudi Naval Forces. He will be replaced by Vice Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al Ghifaili.