Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chats with his son and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before King Salman left for Medina, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 8 2017. Picture: REUTERS
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chats with his son and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, before King Salman left for Medina, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 8 2017. Picture: REUTERS

Riyadh — On Thursday, Saudi Arabia said 201 people were being held for questioning in a massive antigraft swoop on the elite.

At least $100bn is estimated to have been lost through corruption and embezzlement over several decades.

"A total of 208 individuals have been called in for questioning so far. Of those 208 individuals, seven have been released without charge," the information ministry said in a statement.

Billionaire tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, dubbed Saudi Arabia’s Warren Buffett, was among dozens of high-profile figures arrested or sacked last weekend, in the biggest purge of the kingdom’s elite in its modern history.

Authorities have frozen the bank accounts of the accused and warned that assets related to the corruption cases would be seized as state property, as the government appears set to widen the crackdown.

"The potential scale of corrupt practices that have been uncovered is very large," the ministry said.

"Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100bn has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades."

The purge came just after an antigraft commission, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was established on Saturday. With the purge, which analysts have described as a bold but risky power play, Prince Mohammed has centralised power to a degree that is unprecedented in recent Saudi history.

AFP

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