Saudi Arabia terminates tourism government officials suspected of corruption

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Saudi Arabia sacked a number of government officials working with tourism projects including the historical northwestern site al-Ula, the Red Sea mega projects and the Souda Development Company, on suspicion of corruption, state news agency SPA reported on Friday, citing a royal decree.

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The officials are under investigation over encroachment on lands belonging to these projects, SPA reported. The royal decree requires that the Control and Anti-Corruption Commission immediately investigate all the officials about their suspected involvement and for legal action to be taken against those found responsible, according to the news agency.

There were more than 5,000 violations reported in the Red Sea Project lands and dozens in al-Ula, according to SPA, in addition to others not authorized by the Royal Commission for al-Ula.

“These violations are considered violations of the system and constitute environmental damage,” according to SPA.

The violations, which have been authorized by some officials, have a “great impact” on the completion of projects and are an infringement on the competence of the al-Ula Royal Commission, SPA reported.

The royal order required the termination of the services of Lieutenant General Awad bin Eid bin Awda al-Balawi, Director General of the Border Guard, and referred him to retirement.

It also ended the services of the governors of Umluf, al-Wajh and the head of the Souda Center, according to SPA.

Services of the commanders of the border guard sectors in Umluf and al-Wajh have also been terminated.

The services of the official who was reportedly responsible for infringements, as well as his deputy at the Ministry of Interior, in addition to those responsible for infringements in the governorates of Madina, Tabuk and Asir have also been terminated.

The Ministry of Interior and Municipal and Rural Affairs, and the governorates of Madinah, Tabuk and Asir have been given a one-month period to “remove all infringements.”

The royal decree also said that “very strict” measures will be taken in the event of any further infringements, according to SPA.

Anti-corruption fight in Saudi Arabia

In February 2019, Saudi Arabia launched a new office to monitor state spending, saying it would help keep up the fight against corruption after the closing of a 15-month crackdown, state media had reported.

Read also: Saudi Arabia launches office to keep up corruption fight after crackdown

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said during the time that the crackdown launched in November 2017 - which netted scores of the Kingdom’s economic and political elite - had achieved its objectives.

The royal court said the operation had recovered more than $106 billion through settlements with scores of senior princes, ministers and top businessmen.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz said at the time that the government would continue its efforts to combat corruption and protect public funds.

In May this year, Saudi Arabia’s Control and Anti-Corruption Authority filed a total of 117 financial and administrative corruption cases against individuals who tried to exploit government entities over the past month. The cases involved individuals who worked at the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism and the General Authority of Zakat and Tax.

In July, the Kingdom issued preliminary rulings for five financial and administrative corruption cases, according to SPA. The cases involved judges, citizens and Department of Education employees.

- With Reuters

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