September 1, 2019 / 7:24 AM / 14 days ago

New Saudi anti-corruption chief to target public servants

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan June 29, 2019. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

RIYADH (Reuters) - The new head of Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption commission said he plans to go after graft by ordinary government employees, following a high-profile campaign two years ago that netted princes, ministers and top businessmen.

Members of the kingdom’s economic and political elite were detained for months at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel in a crackdown in 2017 that unsettled some foreign investors Riyadh needs to diversify its economy. Critics said it amounted to a power play and shakedown of the crown prince’s political rivals.

Mazen al-Khamous told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV after his appointment on Friday that he had been directed to focus on ending bureaucratic corruption in the world’s top oil exporter and follow up with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a monthly basis.

“After the country largely rid itself of the big heads of corruption, I convey a stern warning from the crown prince, who instructed me that the coming period will be to eradicate corruption among mid- and low-level public servants,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s royal court said in January it was winding down a 15-month anti-corruption campaign after summoning nearly 400 people and recovering more than $106 billion through settlements with dozens of them.

That initial sweep netted cousins of the crown prince, such as billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and National Guard minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, as well as ousted economy minister Adel Fakieh, former royal court chief Khalid al-Tuwaijri, and top businessmen Waleed al-Ibrahim, Saleh Kamel and Bakr bin Laden.

Prince Mohammed has defended the anti-corruption campaign, calling it “shock therapy”, as he tries to overhaul the Arab world’s largest economy and transform Saudi society.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin

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