The Saudi government has fired a number of officials leading major tourism projects over suspicion of corruption, with thousands of violations having been reported.
According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the officials, who were part of prominent tourist sites such as Al-Ula and mega projects along the Red Sea in the north-west of the Kingdom, were dismissed and are currently under investigation.
Charges against them include the encroachment on land belonging to those projects, as well as other actions which SPA said “are considered violations of the system and constitute environmental damage.”
Those violations, which amount to over 5,000 in the territory of the Red Sea projects and dozens in the famed historical site of Al-Ula, have reportedly had a “great impact” on the completion of the projects and has affected the reputation of the Al-Ula Royal Commission, which did not authorise the violations conducted by the officials.
Among those whose services were terminated by royal order were Director General of the Border Guard Lieutenant General Awad bin Eid bin Awda Al-Balawi, the governors of Umluf and Al-Wajh, and the head of the Souda tourist site.
An official who was allegedly responsible for infringements, his deputy in the Ministry of Interior, and others who committed infringements in the provinces of Madina, Tabuk, and Asir also had their services terminated.
Furthermore, those three provinces’ governors, as well as the Ministry of Interior and Municipal and Rural Affairs, have all been ordered to “remove all infringements” within a period of one month.
The termination of the officials’ jobs comes amid a significant anti-corruption drive headed by the Saudi authorities under the Control and Anti-Corruption Authority recently established. It follows on from a spate of other terminations and investigations this year, such as in May when the authority filed a total of 117 financial and administrative corruption cases against those in the ministries of health and tourism who allegedly attempted to exploit government entities.
That anti-corruption drive, however, is also believed to have been used as a method for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to cement his power and eliminate potential opposition by arresting, detaining, and demanding money from officials and even princes belonging to the Saudi royal family.