RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Tuesday most of the people detained in a sweeping anti-corruption campaign launched last month have agreed to settlements to avoid prosecution while the rest could be held for months.
In a statement, the public prosecutor said a total of 320 people had been subpoenaed to provide information about alleged graft while 159 remain in detention and “a number” of them have been referred for judicial action.
Saudi security forces have rounded up members of the country’s political and business elite, including princes and prominent investors, on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in what was billed as a war on rampant corruption.
A Saudi minister told Reuters on Monday that the main wave of arrests was over and the authorities were preparing to channel an estimated $50-$100 billion of seized funds into economic development projects.
The first financial settlements were brokered last week with senior Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender for the throne, being freed after agreeing to pay over $1 billion, officials said.
The public prosecutor said the anti-corruption committee headed by Prince Mohammed was expected to finish the settlement phase within a few weeks.
“The Committee has followed internationally applied procedures by negotiating with the detainees and offering them a settlement that will facilitate recouping the State’s funds and assets, and eliminate the need for a prolonged litigation.”
Detainees are free to contact whomever they like and to reject any settlement offers, the statement said. Those who sign deals are recommended for pardon and an end to criminal litigation.
People who refuse to settle are referred to the public prosecutor for additional investigation and potential prosecution, the statement said. They can be held for up to six months with the possibility of court-ordered extension.
The public prosecutor also said the bank accounts of 376 people in detention and others related remain frozen, down from over 2,000 a few weeks ago.
Critics say the government’s campaign amounts to a shakedown and is aimed at shoring up Prince Mohammed’s power base, which the authorities deny.
(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; editing by Mark Heinrich)