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Saudi Arabia Detains 208 People in Wide-ranging Corruption Probe


General view of the closed main gate of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 5, 2017. A day earlier Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes, including a prominent billionaire, and dozens of current and former ministers, reports said, in a sweeping crackdown.

Saudi Arabia’s attorney general confirmed the country has detained 208 people in a wide corruption probe and estimates more than $100 billion had been embezzled over many years.

In a statement Thursday, Saud al-Mojeb said seven of the people detained had been released without charge, but the other 201 remain in custody. Around 1,700 bank accounts also were frozen by the government.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he spoke with Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Tuesday.

“It’s my understanding that they’re characterizing [the detentions] as not really arrests at this point, but they’re presenting people with evidence of what they think the wrongdoing is to see if there’s a willingness to want to makethings right,” Tillerson said.

“It raises a few concerns,” he added, “until we see more clearly how these particular individuals are dealt with.”

FILE - A poster of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a phrase reading in Arabic, " God protect you" is seen on a highway in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, Nov. 9, 2017.
FILE - A poster of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a phrase reading in Arabic, " God protect you" is seen on a highway in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, Nov. 9, 2017.

Critics of the Saudi government say the probe is aimed at purging top Saudi government officials and sidelining rivals, as 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman heads the newly formed anti-graft commission.

“Based on our investigations over the past three years, we estimate that at least $100 billion has been misused through systematic corruption and embezzlement over several decades,” the statement read.

The government did not name any of the people who have been detained during the probe, citing privacy concerns.

VOA's Nike Ching at the State Department contributed to this report.

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