World Economy

Transparency International Says MBS Creating “Culture of Fear”

Transparency International Says MBS Creating “Culture of Fear”Transparency International Says MBS Creating “Culture of Fear”

An adviser to Transparency International described the secrecy around the details of the allegations leveled against the detainees of a recent mass purge conducted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (aka MBS) as a “culture of fear” that indicates the lack of transparency and due process in the oil kingdom.

“The entire process was shrouded in secrecy from the onset,” said Marwa Fatafta, a Middle East adviser to Transparency International. “Asking detainees for assets in exchange for their release sounds like extortion, which is corruption,” AP reported.

MBS, the king’s 32-year-old son and heir, oversaw the unprecedented shakedown of roughly 380 people, including princes and dozens of business moguls and officials, who together symbolized the elite structure encircling the ruling Al Saud family and its vast patronage networks. But now there are questions whether the prince succeeded in his effort to centralize power and eradicate corruption.

The Saudi regime has not officially revealed the names of those questioned in the anti-corruption probe, though dozens of high-profile names were leaked to state-linked media. 

The purge is now winding down, or at least moving to a new phase. More than 300 of those detained in the sweep have been released, though 56 others are still in custody and could face prosecution. The luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, where most detainees were held, is scheduled to reopen to the public on Feb. 14.

On Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Saudi Arabia scored a 46 last year, or what is considered a “failing grade.”

Fatafta said the crown prince “managed to create a culture of fear” without ensuring sustainable change through measures like a more transparent state budget and independence for the judiciary.

“If you want to have true accountability, then everybody, including the crown prince and the king, should be accountable,” she said. “In this case, how do you make sure that the crown prince is not abusing his power while he is trying to keep the royal family under check?”

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