03:47 GMT +325 April 2018
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    Saudi Arabia's State Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf arrives for the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, Thursday, July 6, 2017. The leaders of the group of 20 meet July 7 and 8.

    Saudi Minister of State Arrested in Anti-Graft Purge Returns to Work

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    A top Saudi Arabian government minister who was reportedly detained in November as part of a massive anti-corruption crackdown has returned to work, reports Saudi state media.

    Saudi Minister of State Ibrahim al-Assaf was spotted at a Tuesday cabinet meeting, doing his job like normal — except al-Assaf was reportedly arrested in November 2017 under allegations of embezzlement and corruption.

    Assaf served as minister of finance from 1996-2016 until he assumed his more recent job. He also serves on the board of directors of Saudi Aramco, the national oil company that is thought to be the most valuable company in the world.

    Assaf is also one of the highest-profile figures arrested as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's major corruption probe. He was accused of embezzlement related to the ongoing expansion of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, as well as using his position and inside information to make land purchases.

    Assaf was reportedly released in December after being cleared of all accusations of wrongdoing.

    As many as 200 people were arrested in the purge and as much as $800 billion in assets were frozen. The prisoners were held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, which has been converted into a luxury prison.

    The highest-profile arrest was that of Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, Salman's cousin and the chief of the country's National Guard. Abdullah was released in December after agreeing to pay the government $1 billion, one of several detainees released after handing their assets over ot the state.

    Other high-profile arrests included some of Saudi Arabia's richest entrepreneurs, among them billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and other government ministers such as Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih.

    Talal remains in custody, and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that he has denied all wrongdoing. Reportedly, authorities wish for him to surrender control of the Kingdom Holding Company that he founded and owns as recompense for his alleged corruption, but Talal has refused.

    Many other members of the Saudi royal family were arrested in the purge — and some, like Abdullah, were at one point considered to be candidates for the throne of the aging King Salman. This has led to speculation that bin Salman, who became crown prince in June, was ensuring a smooth ascension to the throne by removing his main rivals from power.

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    Tags:
    purge, consolidation, corruption, Saudi Corruption Purge, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Mutaib bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi Arabia
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