Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has begun processing the cases of 56 men detained in the country’s sweeping anti-corruption purge late last year, an official said on Sunday.
The 56 are still in Saudi government custody after failing to be exonerated or reach financial settlements with the government.
The shock crackdown in November 2017 saw a new Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee round up 381 corruption suspects on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s orders, with many confined and interrogated.
Just 30 or so of the men’s identities were released.
The list of names included top officials, members of the Saudi royal family, and global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
More than 2,000 bank accounts were frozen and private jets were grounded as detainees were rounded up and, in many cases, held in Riyadh’s opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel.
In January, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general released a statement saying it had completed its review of cases and would release all those who had paid settlements or against whom it did not have enough evidence.
It estimated the value of settlements at 400 billion Saudi riyals (more than £75 billion) “represented in various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets.”
On Sunday, the Saudi government announced that the public prosecutor had begun investigations and opening arguments in the corruption cases of the 56 men still in custody.
According to deputy attorney general for investigations Saud al-Hamad, the charged men will be referred to court for prosecution in cases related to money laundering or terrorism.
Mr Hamad said some of those under investigation hadn’t respected confidential agreements, while others committed further, as yet unspecified, offences.
The anti-corruption campaign was framed as part of Mohammad bin Salman’s push to transform Saudi’s oil-dependent economy, which has been long plagued by graft, and make it more modern, diversified, and capable of withstanding diving oil prices.
But critics say the blanket of secrecy that has cloaked proceedings, as well as the lack of detail on financial settlements reached, suggests it was more about gathering cash and shoring up the crown prince’s growing authority than tackling corruption.