Reforms aimed at ‘cancer’ of corruption, says Saudi crown prince

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

:: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince says the anti-corruption drive launched late last year is the “shock therapy” that the Kingdom needs to root out widespread graft.

“You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption. You need to have chemo, the shock of chemo, or the cancer will eat the body,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told The Washington Post in an interview published on Tuesday night.

“The Kingdom couldn’t meet budget targets without halting this looting,” he said.

“The corrupted princes were a minority, but the bad actors got more attention. It harmed the energy of the royal family,” he said.

All but 56 of those arrested have been freed after paying restitution: “Most of them know they have made big mistakes, and they have settled,” the crown prince said.

In the latest move, a shake-up announced in royal decrees late on Monday saw top brass, including the chief of staff and heads of the ground forces and air defense, replaced and a broad defense reform plan approved. The government bureaucracy is also to be overhauled.

The crown prince said that the shake-up announced by his father, King Salman, was aimed at installing “high energy” people who could achieve modernization targets. “We want to work with believers,” the crown prince told the US paper.

On Lebanon, he said Prime Minister Saad Hariri “is in a better position,” compared to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia.

On his domestic and regional policies, the crown prince said that the changes were essential to finance the development of the Kingdom and to combat its enemies, such as Iran. He said that the pace and speed of change was necessary for success.

Earlier, Sheikh Saud Al-Mojeb, the Saudi attorney general, said that total settlements with the suspects had topped $107 billion, which came in various forms of assets.

Al-Mojeb also said that he had decided to release all those proven not guilty, as well as others who had agreed financial settlements with the government after admitting to corruption allegations.

On Tuesday, the crown prince received the recently appointed military chiefs and congratulated them on their new military ranks, wishing them success in serving their religion and their homeland.

The crown prince, who is also the country’s defense minister, received the new Chief of Staff, Gen. Fayad Al-Ruwaili.

He also welcomed Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Turki, who was appointed as Commander of the Joint Forces, Lt. Gen. Mutlaq bin Salim, who was promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Jarallah bin Mohammed, who was appointed as Commander of the Strategic Missile Force.

Prince Mohammed also received Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Abdullah, who was appointed as Commander of the Ground Forces, Lt. Gen. Mezyed bin Sulaiman, who was appointed as Commander of the Air Defense Forces, and Lt. Gen. Turki bin Bandar, who was appointed as Commander of the Air Force.

Earlier, during the Cabinet session in Riyadh, the king wished success to the newly appointed officials, and said he appreciated the officials who had performed their missions and responsibilities during their terms.

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