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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appoints 30 judges, promotes 26 amid anti-graft purge

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DUBAI: King Salman has appointed or promoted 56 judges, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA reported on Thursday, a step coinciding with an anti-corruption crackdown in the kingdom.

The king issued a royal order that promoted 26 judges and appointed 30 others at different levels of the judiciary, SPA said.

Saudi authorities have arrested dozens of royal family members, officials and businessmen in the anti-graft purge that began on Saturday. They face allegations of money laundering, bribery, extortion and exploiting public office for personal gain.

It was unclear if the judges will have any role in the widening crackdown. Regulators in the United Arab Emirates have asked banks for information about citizens detained in the investigation, a possible prelude to freezing their accounts.

Saudi Arabia has announced it will confiscate assets improperly acquired, and while Riyadh has set no timetable for any such confiscations, banking sources say more than 1,700 domestic bank accounts have already been frozen at the request of the central bank.

Huge amounts of money may be at stake. Corruption has over the years siphoned off $800 billion from Saudi state revenues and bankers believe much of it is held abroad, in countries including Switzerland and Britain.

208 questioned in graft probe

Saudi Arabia’s attorney-general said on Thursday that 208 people have been called in for questioning and seven of them had been released without charge.

“Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades,” Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement.

He repeated statements by other top officials that normal commercial activity had not been affected by the crackdown, and that only personal bank accounts had been frozen, not corporate accounts. “Companies and banks are free to continue with transactions as usual.”

 

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