Saudi Arabia to crackdown on corrupt officials

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Saudi Arabia has announced it will confiscate money and assets held by dozens of top officials and businessmen detained in an anti-corruption crackdown.

But the experiences of two other Arab states trying to recover stolen money, Egypt and Tunisia, suggest Riyadh may face years of legal and diplomatic battles to secure assets held abroad. Even then success is not guaranteed.

The anti-corruption committee that detained princes, tycoons and ministers at the weekend has the power under a royal decree to take “whatever measures are deemed necessary” to seize companies, funds and other assets without waiting for the results of criminal investigations.

The offshore scrutiny of assets has already begun in the Gulf region, where Saudi Arabia regularly shares information.

The United Arab Emirates’ central bank and securities regulator has asked banks and finance companies there to provide information on the accounts of 19 Saudi citizens, banking sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The Saudi committee has not given details of the allegations individuals face, though Saudi officials say they include money laundering, bribery, extortion and taking advantage of public office for personal gain.

Riyadh has also set no timetable for its confiscations, although banking sources say more than 1,700 domestic bank accounts have already been frozen at the request of the central bank.