Saudi Arabia has arrested 11 princes and 38 sitting and former ministers and deputy ministers over corruption charges, Al Arabiya local news reported on Sunday.
The arrest orders were made by a panel Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud formed on Saturday, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Among the arrested princes is billionaire Prince Waleed bin Talal who runs businesses all over the world. Owners of top regional TV channels and networks are also among the arrestees.
The charges against the arrestees vary from signing illegal armed deal, money laundering, embezzlement, accepting or giving bribes and exploitation of power. More arrests are expected to take place in the coming days, local media reported.
The panel also announced that it is reopening the file of the 2009 Jeddah deadly floods and investigating the coronavirus issue, also known as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, or MERS virus.
The panel has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, freeze accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets of individuals involved in corruption practices, the report said.
It was formed to eliminate exploitation by some to illicitly accrue money, King Salman said in his decree.
The wave of arrests, first of its kind, paves the way for new Saudi Arabia with intolerant approach against corruption. It also gets ready for the country towards post-oil era with the focus on economic reforms and diversity, and major business projects.
Last month, the crown prince announced the launch of NEOM project, a planned megacity that may cost over 500 billion U.S. dollars over the coming years.
NEOM’s land mass will extend across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, rendering it the first private zone to span three countries, aiming at transformation of the kingdom into a leading global hub through the introduction of value chains of industry and technology.