Saudi Arabia drops statute of limitations from anti-corruption law

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 10, 2018. Yoan Valat/Pool via Reuters

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia amended an anti-corruption law on Tuesday to remove a 60-day statute of limitations for investigating allegations against current or former ministers, as part of efforts to tackle graft and abuse of power in the world’s top oil exporter.

“This amendment will enable the (National Anti-Corruption) Commission and competent authorities to carry out their tasks effectively and efficiently to protect public money, the state’s interests and the national economy from corruption,” the commission’s chairman, Khalid bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Muhaisen, was quoted as saying by state news agency SPA.

Authorities rounded up dozens of princes, top officials and businessmen last November on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s orders, with many confined and interrogated at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Most detainees, including global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were released after being exonerated or reaching financial settlements with the government, which says it arranged to seize more than $100 billion through such deals.

The corruption sweep alarmed the Saudi business community as well as international investors the country is courting to support Prince Mohammed’s efforts to transform an oil-dependent economy.

But the campaign remains shrouded in secrecy, with few details of the allegations or the financial settlements disclosed. The Ritz reopened to the public in February, though 56 people who had not reached settlements by then were kept in custody and could face trial.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy