Saudi officials arrested over alleged coronavirus profiteering

Saudi officials arrested over alleged coronavirus profiteering
Saudi authorities say they have arrested several officials allegedly involved in two different coronavirus lockdown-related schemes.
2 min read
20 April, 2020
The arrests included that of officials from the tourism and health ministries [Getty]

Saudi authorities have arrested at least three senior officials for allegedly attempting to profit from the kingdom's coronavirus outbreak, state media reported on Sunday.

The officials, two of whom worked in the health ministry, were part of a scheme that overcharged the government for the hotel quaratining of Saudis returning from abroad, according to an official from the anti-corruption agency.

The scheme reportedly involved six other people who charged "commissions" to hotels vying for state contracts, the official told the Saudi Press Agency.

Those involved in the scheme submitted inflated rates for the hotels to the health ministry.

Saudi anti-corruption officials say a tourism ministry official admitted to their role and attempting to waste public funds.

Anti-corruption officials also uncovered a scheme to produce counterfeit movement permits to allow holders to bypass government lockdown restrictions.

At least 31 permits were produced and offered for sale for a price of 3,000 riyals ($800) each.

Riyadh police arrested those involved in the counterfeiting operation, including an interior ministry employee who colluded with a relative working at the health ministry, according to the SPA.

While many businesses have had to close operations due to coronavirus lockdowns across the world, criminals have sought to profit from the pandemic in a number of ways.

Earlier this month, Saudi police busted an illegal hand sanitiser factory and arrested its workers amid higher demand for the hygeine product.

video posted by Saudi Arabia's ministry of commerce posted on Twitter showed factory workers allegedly mixing "unknown ingredients" in an "unprofessional and irregular" way to manufacture the hand sanitiser, the ministry claimed.

Workers in the factory were arrested and the products confiscated, the ministry added.

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