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Head of AlUla commission arrested over corruption

The Royal Commission for AlUla was set up to turn the ancient site into a tourist destination Eric Lafforgue/Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect
The Royal Commission for AlUla was set up to turn the ancient site into a tourist destination
  • AlUla commission head arrested
  • ‘Abuse of influence’ alleged
  • Three further arrests made

Saudi Arabia has arrested the head of the Royal Commission for AlUla over corruption, one of the most notable arrests since the government launched a crackdown in 2017. 

The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, known as Nazaha, said on X (formerly Twitter) that it had detained AlUla’s CEO Amr bin Saleh bin Abdelrahman Al-Madani for “abuse of influence and money laundering”. 

Nazaha said that before joining AlUla’s Royal Commission, Al-Madani used family connections to obtain contracts worth SAR206.6 million ($55 million) for National Talents Company, of which he is an owner, from the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, a government body in Riyadh. 

He then made false claims to have divested from the company while helping it to obtain contracts worth SAR1.3 million from the Royal Commission, Nazaha added. 

Nazaha further alleges that Al-Madani also received kickbacks from companies receiving contracts from the Commission, with the help of a relative, Mohammed bin Suleiman bin Mohammed Al-Harby, who was also arrested. 

Two other men were arrested for cooperating with Al-Madani. 

“Nazaha affirms that it will continue to monitor and catch all those who abuse public funds and their position for personal benefit or to damage the public interest,” it said in a follow-up post on X. 

Watching the transformation

The arrest of Al-Madani sends a strong message during the kingdom’s bonanza of spending on massive development projects.

Formed in 2011, Nazaha has ramped up its operations since the government launched a major anti-corruption campaign in 2017, resulting in hundreds of officials and businessmen being detained. 

The world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is currently awash with cash, and its giga-projects have been valued at $1.25 trillion. Real estate consultancy Frank Knight has described the country as the world’s biggest ever construction site. 

The Royal Commission for AlUla was set up in 2017 to transform the ancient historical site of AlUla, which includes a Nabataean sister city to Petra in Jordan, into a major cultural tourism attraction as part of the country’s economic development plans. 

A Royal Commission for Riyadh, established in the 1970s, was then revamped in 2019 to coordinate efforts to transform the Saudi capital, which is to host the 2030 World Expo. 

The Commission’s website said Abeer Al Akel had been appointed as acting CEO. 

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