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Saudi fires public security chief on corruption allegations

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has dismissed the director of public security, Khalid bin Qarar al-Harbi, ordering his investigation on corruption charges, state media reported Wednesday.

“Khaled al-Harbi’s service has been terminated by referring him to retirement and to an investigation,” said the official Saudi Press Agency, citing a royal decree.

Harbi — along with 18 others in both the private and public sectors — has been accused of embezzling public money, forgery, bribery and abuse of influence, it added.

Harbi has been the kingdom’s director of public security since December 2018, and he had previously been the commander of special emergency forces, according to local media.

The kingdom announced Tuesday night that it has uncovered more than dozen cases of corruption — one of which involved a national security official — in recent months, for sums worth 290 million riyals ($77.3 million).

Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, the king’s son, launched in 2017 a vast anti-corruption campaign shortly after his appointment as crown prince.

The campaign saw Riyadh’s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel serve for three months as a makeshift detention centre for dozens of princes and senior officials suspected of graft or disloyalty.

Already viewed as the de facto ruler controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy, Prince Mohammed is widely seen to be stamping out traces of internal dissent.

Saudi authorities have allocated a toll-free hotline for residents to report any suspicious corruption activity, with banners across the kingdom urging people to cooperate with the anti-corruption campaign.

Saudi Arabia, which ranks 51 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption index, has for decades faced endemic graft and the deeply ingrained social practice of “wasta”, or using influence and personal connections to get ahead.

Prince Mohammed told the advisory Shura Council in 2019 that the anti-corruption campaign had yielded 247 billion riyals ($66 billion) over the past three years in addition to assets, real estate and stocks worth billions more.