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Complaint about Saudi religious police triggers probe

Saudi Arabia’s religious police, also known as the Muttawa, are facing allegations of alleged corruption.

The Muttawa — officially called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — received a whistleblower complaint about alleged violations and said an investigation would be launched, according to local reports cited Wednesday by Al Arabiya.

One violation concerned a rental agreement with a real estate firm for an office tower on Riyadh’s King Fahd Road.

‘The contract was allegedly for SR17.8 million ($4.53 million), despite that the same building was previously approved for rental to the Ministry of Housing for SR15 million ($4 million),’ the report said.

The complaint also included a claim that an official from the commission received a SR800,000 ($213,000) loan, of which SR400,000 ($106,000) was allocated for the opening of an “intellectual security” training program.

Al Arabiya said,

The report noted that it was the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University that is in charge of organizing this program not the commission official who received the loan. Besides, there is no clear mechanism to oversee how the funds are spent, according to the report.

Muttawa spokesman Turki Al-Shaleel said the allegations are false and intended to smear the religious authority.

About 4,000 Muttawa, sometimes called the ‘religious police,’ patrol the streets, looking for practices deemed to conflict with the Islamic Shariah. They have the power to arrest offenders.

‘The 2013 budget of the commission is estimated at $390 million, a 35 percent increase from the 2012 budget, according to a report by Arabian Business,’ Al Arabiya said.

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Richard L. Cassin is the Publisher and Editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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