Saudi banks freeze accounts of suspects detained in probe: sources

Middle East Reuters

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, waves as he arrives at the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File) (AP)

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian banks have begun freezing the accounts of suspects ensnared in an anti-corruption probe, banking and business sources told Reuters on Monday.

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Dozens of people including royals, ministers and businessmen have been detained in an investigation by a new anti-corruption body headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The central bank ordered banks to freeze the accounts of people under investigation in the probe, the sources said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to talk to media.

Two of the sources said the number of accounts affected could run into the hundreds, but none of the sources mentioned the names of those affected.

"The freezing of accounts has already happened," said another source. "The freezing is a precautionary measure that will end as soon as the suspects are either charged or pronounced innocent."

A central bank spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

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Eleven princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers are among those arrested, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia's best-known international investor, according to Saudi officials.

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The allegations against the men include money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain, a Saudi official said.

The new anti-corruption committee has the power to seize assets at home and abroad before the results of its investigations are known.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin and Nael Shyoukhi in Riyadh, Reem Shamseddine in Khobar and Tom Arnold in Dubai; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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