Most detained agree to cash settlements

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency on 5 December, attorney-general Sheikh Saud al-Mujib, who is a member of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee, said 320 individuals have been subpoenaed and 159 individuals are now detained.

The wave of detentions was made public on November 4, shortly after King Salman announced the formation of the anti-corruption commission headed by his heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The purge has caused concern about damage to the economy especially among foreign investors the kingdom is seeking to attract to develop its economy away from oil.

The allegations, which could not be verified, include kickbacks, inflating government contracts, extortion and bribery.

The crown prince has also said claims dubbing the anti-corruption probe a cover for power consolidation are "ludicrous", pointing out that many of those targeted had already pledged their support to him.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, one of the most senior Saudi royals detained, was released after reaching a settlement deal believed to exceed the equivalent of $1 billion, an official involved in the anti-graft campaign said last week.

Accordingly, the Committee has followed internationally applied methods in dealing with these cases by negotiating with detainees on the corruption charges, and offering a settlement agreement to facilitate the recovery of state funds and shortening the litigation procedures that usually take a long time.

"No detainee will be pressurized in any shape or form", Al-Mujib said, "and each detainee has the right to refuse to settle at any time before the settlement agreement is signed". But any detainees who deny the allegations, or with whom a settlement can not be reached, are referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office, which will continue to investigate and present its findings to the suspect, in accordance with the Law of Criminal Procedures. They can be held for up to six months with the possibility of court-ordered extension.

While some individuals have been identified - like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the kingdom's best known businessman - most remain unnamed.

Vanessa Coleman