Saudi Arabia: $3.5bn fraud case set to define crown prince’s anti-graft campaign

Is legal action against former top official evidence of the kingdom stamping out corruption or silencing its critics?

28 March 2021 - 20:47 By Andrew England and Simeon Kerr

Once one of the most powerful security officials in Saudi Arabia, Saad al-Jabri was feted by western powers. He was integral to multibillion-dollar counter-terrorism efforts and advised senior members of the Saudi royal family before falling foul of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power and going into exile in 2017. He would later accuse the prince of sending a hit squad to Canada to kill him, an allegation with echoes of the 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

But in the latest twist of a bitter dispute that goes to the heart of Saudi power, al-Jabri is the one who now stands accused. In January, 10 companies owned by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund that Prince Mohammed chairs, filed a civil lawsuit in Canada accusing the former interior ministry official of masterminding a $3.5bn (R53bn) fraud using front companies that were established more than a decade ago as cover for Saudi Arabia’s covert counter-terrorism operations. The Ontario court issued a worldwide freeze on al-Jabri’s assets. In March, it rejected an attempt to have the order lifted...

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