Saudi royals tackling corruption, or just cashing in on foes?

Pic Getty Images

The death of Al-Qahtani was one of several examples of torture reported in the New York Times report as part of their investigation into the corruption crackdown authorised by Bin Salman.

In November, Saudi Arabia launched an anti-corruption purge, arresting hundreds of the country's elite, including billionaires, government ministers, and royal family members.

Until 2014, oil income made up more than 90% of public revenues in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince's visit to Washington is part of a three-leg visit, with Mohammed bin Salman having visited Egypt and the United Kingdom earlier in March as part of a long foreign trip, his first as crown prince.

Financial advisers and associates of the detainees have told the New York Times that numerous assets of those detained have yet to be seized and most of those already seized are domestic real estate and shares of companies that could take years to liquidate.

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Saudi officials did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment, but the New York Times quoted the government rejecting the abuse claims as "completely untrue". In order to be released, they had to agree to hand over very large sums of cash and assets-thought to be more than $100 billion combined.

"At the start of the crackdown they promised transparency, but they did not deliver it", former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told the Times.

The detained individuals faced allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and misappropriation of public funds for personal benefits.

The Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, have also dispatched similar cables. The government says all of them were guilty of plundering state funds, which have now been returned to state coffers.

As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported in December, freedom of speech doesn't exist in Saudi Arabia, and criticizing Crown Prince Mohammed, or any other senior royal figure, would be risky. He told CBS News that corruption in Saudi Arabia is much bigger than the clampdown by the crown prince addressed. "People has disappeared and been charged for tweets", he noted.

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