Saudi Arabia is amping up efforts to combat rampant corruption within its public institutions. As with several other Arab countries, bribery is rife in governmental sectors but the kingdom hasn't been letting anyone guilty of such acts walk free.
In a recent case that's been made public, the country's public prosecution detained a prominent businessman who bribed a government employee with 75 million Saudi riyals ($20 million) in a bid to get approval on a billion-dollar project.
It all unfolded upon the man's arrival to Jeddah Airport from a trip abroad, where he was arrested on charges of issuing fake cheques. During interrogations, police uncovered a track record of similar crimes the defendant had committed in previous years. Aside from the aforementioned bribery charges, he was also accused of trying to bribe a public sector employee to help bail him out of jail.
The man faces major legal punishment on all counts registered against him, specifically the charge related to bribery as it's strictly illegal in the kingdom.
News of the businessman's arrest coincides with a huge investigation already launched into a municipality located in Jazan governorate. Members of the municipality are accused of squandering public funds on "imaginary projects" that only exist on paper.
Saudi Arabia's Anti-Corruption Committee is handling the aforementioned case and has already found evidence proving Jazan officials spent up to 3 million Saudi riyals ($800,000) on fake projects.
This wouldn't be the first case the government sheds light on this year as 126 government employees were suspended on charges of corruption back in January.
"They are charged with involvement in a number of cases including financial and managerial corruption, abuse of power as well as other legal and criminal violations," the kingdom's Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs wrote on Twitter at the time.
These detainments took place after heavy rainfall pushed thousands of Saudis to voice their concern over the municipality's failure to bring infrastructure plans into effect.
Saudi Arabia's anti-corruption fight summed up
The country got serious about combatting corruption in 2017, the year Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched an anti-corruption committee and vowed that nobody involved in corruption would be spared as investigations move forward.
That same year, a nationwide anti-corruption probe led to the arrest of over 300 Saudi nationals including members of the royal family, former and current government leaders, and prominent businessmen. The detainees were placed under house arrest in the kingdom's luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
Months after the arrests, Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's attorney general, said most detainees agreed to financial deals to settle the charges against them."
"Most detainees faced with corruption allegations by the committee agreed to a settlement. The necessary arrangements are being finalized to conclude such agreements," al-Mojeb said at the time.