International review Investigation

NYT: Saudi Corruption Crackdown Was Deadly

Король Саудовской Аравии и высшее руководство страны и их охранники

This material belongs to: OCCRP.

A man died and sixteen others needed medical treatment after being abused during the controversial Saudi corruption crackdown, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Saudi military officer, General Ali al-Qahtani, appeared to have been beaten and electrocuted prior to his death in custody, a doctor and others who saw his corpse alleged, according to the paper.

More than 300 powerful businessmen and royals were held in hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, for several months as part of the unprecedented anti-corruption probe in November last year.

The majority of those held were freed after giving up large parts of their wealth to the government which amounted to more than US$100 billion in total.

Relatives of various other detainees reportedly claimed they were deprived of sleep, roughed up and interrogated with their heads covered while the government representatives coerced them to give up large assets. Officials from two Western governments reportedly said they considered the reports credible.

Several of the prisoners, including Prince Miteb bin Abdullah along with five other princes, and businessman Amr al-Dabbagh, were also tortured, Middle East Eye previously reported.

An official at the Saudi Embassy in Washington said: “All allegations of abuse and torture of those investigated during the anti-corruption proceedings are absolutely untrue.” However, Saudi Arabia has yet to provide an explanation for Qahtani’s death.

General Qahtani was a leading aide to Prince Turki bin Abdullah, a son of the late King Abdullah and a former governor of Riyadh, who was deposed in 2015 as newly-crowned King Salman installed his own loyalists.

The Saudi National Guard officer was not believed to have any great private wealth which casts doubt of his value as the target of an anti-corruption purge.

Members of King Abdullah’s family are viewed as rivals of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father, King Salman. Interrogators may have been trying to extract information from the general on his boss.

Saudi authorities, led by the Crown Prince, have been attempting to recoup tens of billions of dollars left in a foundation by the former King, whose family consider it their inheritance.

The Saudi authorities went to great pains to portray the episode as orderly, with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – the kingdom’s most famous investor – permitted to give an interview to Reuters in which he said “rest assured that this is a clean operation that we have.” He was released shortly afterwards.