Fugitive Saudi official wanted for $11 billion corruption files complaint in US court

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A former Saudi Arabian official wanted in the Kingdom on corruption charges has filed a complaint in the US against the Saudi Arabian government.

In the 106-page unproven complaint, former Interior Ministry official Saad al-Jabri reportedly makes a variety of political accusations against the Kingdom, presenting himself as at odds with Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy positions on Yemen and its apparent decision to “allow” Russia to intervene in Syria.


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After al-Jabri’s statements surfaced online, observers pointed out that the former Interior Minister official was not involved in foreign policy while a government employee and seemed to be politicizing a corruption case.

“Saad al-Jabri is a security officer. He never had a say over any political decision and he wasn’t part of the political decision process. In fact, no one at the interior ministry has any impact on relations with Russia or any other international relations,” said veteran Saudi Arabian journalist and writer Abdulrahman al-Rashed.

“He claimed he was against Saudi Arabia to allow Russia to intervene in Syria. Well, Saudi, or any other regional state, can’t tell Russia what to do in the region,” he added.

Al-Jabri’s role was instead to serve as right-hand-man to then-Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef until he fled the Kingdom in 2017.

“As a security official, nobody would ask al-Jabri about his views on politics or international relations. He might have his own personal opinions on international relations matters, but these opinions are insignificant in government decision-making,” explained al-Rashed.

An aerial view of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on May 24, 2020. (AFP)
An aerial view of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on May 24, 2020. (AFP)

Others accused al-Jabri of falsely presenting himself in the case as opposed to the Arab Coalition’s intervention in Yemen, referring to a 2017 analysis paper in which al-Jabri voiced his support for Saudi Arabia’s policy of containing Iranian provocation and aggression in the region.

“With continued Iranian provocation and aggression, Saudi Arabia's 35 years of strategic patience looks increasingly hard to justify. The status quo of further Iranian destabilization of the Middle East is untenable. Given that the first responsibility of any government is to protect its sovereignty and the safety of its citizens, the new Saudi leadership is rightly decisive and determined to challenge Iranian aggression. Saudi support for the legitimate and sovereign governments of Yemen and Bahrain illustrate this commitment,” wrote al-Jabri in an analysis paper for Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School.

Al-Jabri, who now lives in Canada and has frequently criticized the leadership of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, goes on to quote the Crown Prince in support of the Kingdom taking a more active role opposing Iran’s influence.

“Without such difficult decisions, Iranian meddling might very well have collapsed further parts of the region permanently. As Crown Prince and Minister of Defence Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) recently said, ‘dialogue is important but only when matched by facts on the ground.’ The generational game of unilateral Iranian brinkmanship and bazaar politics, at the expense of security, is over,” he wrote in the 2017 paper.

Social media users accused him of hypocrisy for seeming to shift his stance in light of the corruption case against him.

“Al-Jabri who says that he is against the war in Yemen,” wrote one Twitter user in Arabic, sharing an excerpt of the Belfer analysis paper.

Read more: Fugitive Saudi interior official misspent $11 bln in government funds: WSJ

Corruption allegations

Saudi Arabia has accused al-Jabri of leading a network of corrupt officials who misappropriated funds while he was employed at the Ministry of Interior.

Saudi Arabian investigators say that al-Jabri misspent $11 billion over the 17 years he ran a special fund that was dedicated to the Kingdom’s counter-terrorism efforts.

A recent report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that cited US intelligence agencies published the allegations against al-Jabri and his network.

According to the WSJ, al-Jabri spent the $11 billion to pay himself, his family, and acquaintances in bonuses.

“Mr. Jabri, a 61-year-old with a doctorate in computer science, was the effective No. 2 in the Saudi Interior Ministry, which was run for years by Mohammed bin Nayef. Mr. Jabri ran a special ministry fund that mixed government spending on high-priority antiterrorism efforts with bonuses for Mr. Jabri and others, according to documents reviewed by the Journal and interviews with Saudi officials and Mr. Jabri’s confidants,” the WSJ report read.

“In the 17 years he oversaw the fund, $19.7 billion flowed through it. The government claims $11 billion was spent improperly through overpayments on contracts or was diverted to destinations including overseas bank accounts controlled by Mr. Jabri, his family and his associates, including Mohammed bin Nayef,” the report added.

A Saudi Arabian official told the WSJ that al-Jabri’s dealings were illegal and a theft from the public treasury that was being pursued under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s anti-corruption drive.

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