Saudi Arabia reportedly used physical abuse to extract billions from its corruption crackdown

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Mohammed bin Salman Saudi Arabia Deputy Crown PrinceREUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

  • Saudi Arabia reportedly used physical abuse to extract billions of dollars from some of the country's richest men.
  • At least 17 arrested officials were hospitalized in the early stages of the crackdown, and one died in custody.
  • The corruption probe, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saw the arrests of more than 200 officials and businessmen, netting $100 billion in settlements.


Saudi Arabia reportedly used coercion and physical abuse to extract billions of detainees during a crackdown on corruption.

The purge, launched in early November 2017, arrested 11 princes as well as government ministers and wealthy businessmen, who were then held in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.

At least 17 officials were hospitalized in the early stages of the crackdown and one later died in custody after suffering major injuries from apparent mistreatment, the New York Times reported.

Family members of arrested officials said detainees were "deprived of sleep, roughed up and interrogated with their heads covered," reported the Times.

In one instance, a Saudi military officer reportedly died in custody after suffering from a twisted neck that looked like it had been forcibly broken, and his body was covered in bruises, according to someone who saw the body. A doctor who also saw the corpse identified burn marks indicative of electric shocks.

The Saudi government told the Times its investigations were conducted "under full accordance to Saudi laws."

"All those under investigation had full access to legal counsel in addition to medical care to address pre-existing, chronic conditions," the government said.

More than 200 officials were arrested during the corruption probe

More than 200 officials were arrested during the corruption probe, which reportedly netted $100 billion in settlements.

The government said the anti-corruption committee, headed by the Crown Prince, had the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions, and freeze bank accounts. An estimated 1,700 individual bank accounts were frozen in November, according to the Associated Press.

In the initial stages of the crackdown, Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid al-Qasabi said "eliminating corruption also means greater transparency and greater security for investors."

But critics say the anti-corruption program, which was paused in December, has been shrouded in secrecy, with details of transactions and deals reached between detainees and the government remaining unclear.

The Ritz Carlton has since reopened, though 56 people were still being detained last month, likely in a prison.

On Sunday, the Kingdom established anti-corruption units to investigate cases in the future.

Peter Jacobs contributed to this report.

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