Banks in the United Arab Emirates are being asked for details on prominent Saudi citizens detained in an anti-corruption crackdown. David Doyle reports.
Saudi Arabia says it will confiscate money and assets held by dozens of top officials and businessmen as it takes its anti-corruption crackdown beyond its borders. Princes, business tycoons and politicians were arrested at the weekend in a purge that cements the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Many of them being held here, at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh's diplomatic quarter. Their assets now being targeted by the newly formed anti-corruption committee which was created by royal decree and is chaired by Prince Mohammed. It has the power to use "whatever measures are deemed necessary" to seize companies, funds and other assets. And the scrutiny of offshore funds has already begun - banks in the United Arab Emirates are being asked to give up details about Saudi citizens detained in the investigation. The UAE, and Dubai in particular, are popular destinations for Saudi money. Commercial bankers told Reuters that UAE regulators had asked for details on the accounts of 19 Saudis. Almost all of those 19 - including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal - have been detained in the inquiry. Commercial bankers said UAE authorities had not explained why they wanted the information, but believed it was at the behest of the Saudi government. Central bank officials in the UAE were not available to comment. The move is seen as a possible precursor to those accounts being frozen, and huge amounts of money could be at stake. An official at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce estimated that if all the revenue lost to corruption was retrieved, it would total $800 billion. Much of that sum is believed to held offshore in bank accounts, portfolio investments, corporate shareholdings and real estate. Saudi officials in Riyadh, who have reportedly frozen over 1,700 domestic bank accounts in the crackdown, did not respond to requests for comment.