World News

Saudi king appoints 30 judges, promotes 26 amid anti-graft purge

DUBAI (Reuters) - 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.

Reporting by Dahlia Nehme, editing by Mark Heinrich/William Maclean