Saudi Crown Prince says anti-corruption drive is essential for the Kingdom’s reputation

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has dismissed claims that the anticorruption drive in his country that led to the arrest of several prominent royals was a power grab, saying such comments were “ludicrous.”
And he said the public prosecutor believed the amount of funds that could eventually be recovered could amount to “$100 billion in settlements.”
Speaking in an interview with the New York Times foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman, he said that many of those being held in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton had pledged allegiance to him and the proposed reforms.
Adding that he also had the support of most key royals, he said: “Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one ‘war on corruption’ and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up.”
He explained that when his father, King Salman – who was clear of any corruption charges – came to power, they decided it was time to put an end to the problems tarnishing the country’s reputation.
“My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top,” the Crown Prince said.
He explained that the team took two years to piece together the “most accurate information,” which finally led to the production of a list of 200 names.
Each of the billionaires and princes accused of corruption was arrested, presented with the evidence, and given the choice to come clean – the Crown Prince explained.
He said that about 95 percent agreed to settle – signing over cash or shares in their businesses to the Saudi State Treasury.
Mohammed bin Salman said that a further 1 percent were able to prove their innocence, while the remaining 4 percent insisted they were not corrupt and wanted to go to court with their lawyers.
He said it was not possible to get rid of all corruption, but the current drive – he said – would send a signal that there was no escape.
Asked about his recent comments on his hope to move Saudi Arabia to a more moderate and tolerant form of Islam, he told Friedman: “Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam — we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins — and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979.”
During this time, he explained, Saudi had musical theaters, men and women mixed, and there was respect for Christians and Jews.
He added that the “first commercial judge in Medina was a woman.”
Mohammed bin Salman praised President Donald Trump, describing him as the “the right person at the right time.”
He said Saudi Arabia was slowly building a coalition with its allies to “stand up to Iran.”
On Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said he was the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” And he added: “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.”
According to Friedman, many have said that the Crown Prince his working hard and fast, implementing his reforms – whether that is tackling corruption, or given women the right to drive.
Asked why he replied: “I fear that the day I die I am going to die without accomplishing what I have in my mind.”
He said life was too short, but that he was determined to change happen in his lifetime.


Saudi Arabia

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman


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Author : rbksa

Publish date : 24 November 2017 | 10:20 am

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