Saudi says companies with ties to corruption suspects will not be disrupted

Saudi banks have reportedly frozen more than 1,200 accounts on the central bank’s instructions

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince directed ministers on Tuesday to ensure that national and multinational companies, including those wholly or partly owned by individuals under investigation in sweeping anti-corruption probe, were not disrupted.

“The Council recognised the importance of these companies for the national economy, and the importance of ensuring that investors could operate with confidence in Saudi Arabia,” the state news agency said in a report.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s central bank sought to reassure the business community on Tuesday that the anti-corruption investigation would not hurt the economy, saying companies and banks could operate as normal.

At the request of the attorney-general, the central bank is freezing personal bank accounts of suspects pending court rulings on their cases, but it is not suspending operations of their companies, the bank said in a statement.

“In other words, corporate businesses remain unaffected. It is business as usual for both banks and corporates,” the central bank said, adding that there were no restrictions on money transfers through proper banking channels.

Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain.

Commercial bankers told Reuters earlier on Tuesday that Saudi banks had frozen more than 1,200 accounts on the central bank’s instructions and that the number was continuing to rise almost hourly.

This has raised fears among businessmen that payments of outstanding debts could be delayed and that day-to-day activities of some companies, such as paying staff and creditors, might be hindered.

The share prices of some companies linked to detained tycoons have plunged about 20 per cent in the past three days.