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Anti-graft committee will ‘create new era of financial transparency’ in KSA

This file photo taken on December 14, 2016 shows a Saudi investor walking past the stock exchange monitors at the Saudi Stock Exchange, or Tadawul, in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s new super-committee to fight corruption will give confidence to investors, protect public funds and create a new era of financial transparency, government ministers and experts said on Sunday.

The committee would enforce anti-corruption regulations within the rule of law and to international standards, said Mohammed Al-Jadaan, the minister of finance.

Its work would “consolidate the reform approach adopted by the government to eradicate corruption and consolidate the principles of governance, accountability and justice,” he said.

“This enhances confidence in the business environment and investment in the Kingdom, achieves fair competition among investors, and contributes to development in accordance with best international practice.”

Saudi Arabia was launching a new era of transparency, clarity, accountability and commitment to citizens and the international community in combating corruption, Al-Jadaan said, and would not tolerate or condone any violations of local or global business standards.

“There will be no privileges or exceptions for any investor in order to provide a fair and transparent investment environment based on merit, not nepotism and favoritism. This will provide a healthy and attractive environment to investment, and accelerate the pace of national transformation to achieve the aspirations of Vision 2030.”

Culture and Information Minister Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad said King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were keen to protect public money and eradicate corruption, which was a deterrent to the economy and society. The creation of the committee, led by the crown prince, was a shift in transparency, accountability and governance to produce a healthy environment attractive to investment.

Al-Awwad said that the fight against corruption would achieve social justice and consolidate the values of integrity, justice and equality in society. It would safeguard public funds and punish corrupt people and those who exploit their positions, and establish the state’s management style based on integrity, honesty and sincerity.

Reuters news agency reported that among those detained in the new committee’s investigations were Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding; former Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf; former Economy and Planning Minister Adel Fakieh; former Riyadh Gov. Prince Turki bin Abdullah; Khaled Al-Tuwaijri, who headed the Royal Court under the late King Abdullah; Bakr bin Laden, chairman of Saudi Binladin Group; and Alwaleed Al-Ibrahim, owner of the MBC television network.

However, there has been no official statement as yet to confirm the details apart from local media reporting that a number of princes and businessmen were arrested on charges related to corruption and money laundering.

Sheikh Saud Al-Muajab, the attorney general and a member of the new committee, said: “The committee has initiated a number of investigations as part of the state’s judicial duty to combat corruption. The government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking these measures in accordance with its laws and regulations in a manner appropriate to the nature of the crimes.

“The suspects are being granted the same rights and treatment as any other Saudi citizen. A suspect’s position or status does not influence the firm and fair application of justice. During the investigation, all parties retain full legal privileges relating to their personal and private property, including funds.

“There is an independent judicial process under way, which will be fully respected. The establishment of the committee formalizes an ongoing process of existing investigations that needs to be concluded with due diligence and in accordance with the law. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and everyone’s legal rights will be preserved.”

Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said the establishment of the committee was “a vital step in creating a fair and level playing field for all potential investors.” This was a clear sign that Saudi Arabia was ready to protect companies’ and individuals’ investments from legally reprehensible actions, he said.

“Such policies are internationally accepted norms that will positively impact the country’s overall economic well-being. It should be noted that the anti-corruption committee is only one element of Vision 2030’s policy roadmap for the development of the Kingdom’s society and economy.”

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars said it placed a high value on the establishment of the committee, identifying people who commit crimes and holding them accountable. It said the committee’s creation was another wise decision by King Salman in the public interest.

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