Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others – Arab News
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, known as Nazaha, on Wednesday gave details of a number of criminal cases it is pursuing in which legal proceedings against the accused are underway.
In one of the cases, a notary was arrested for allegedly receiving SR4,461,500 ($1,189,331) in exchange for illegally transferring ownership of two sections of land as a “gift” to a businessman and the businessman’s sister without the knowledge of their father, who owns the land. The notary’s brother was also arrested.
In another, a retired brigadier general who served in the Border Guards is accused of receiving SR10 million to accept requests for compensation from 15 citizens, who have also been arrested, for large areas of land that were owned illegally.
An engineer working in a senior position in a municipality was arrested over claims that he received SR350,000 from a businessman in exchange for issuing fake approval certificates for his commercial enterprise. The certificates are said to have been worth SR435,000 and the related completion certificates for the disbursement of the financial dues had been signed.
A citizen allegedly received SR12,500 of an agreed SR32,000 payment in return for canceling 16 violations by a company that had been registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
Nine employees of the Ministry of Health and six foreign mediators of the deals were arrested over allegations that they accepted money in return for modifying the immunization status of a number of citizens to indicate that they had received a COVID-19 vaccine when they had not.
With the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, an officer and a resident were arrested for forming a criminal gang through which they identified workers in violation of residency laws, arrested them and then demanded money to release them.
A number of cases referred by Nazaha’s Criminal Investigation and Prosecution Unit to the Criminal Court in Riyadh resulted in convictions and the issuance of preliminary court rulings against the suspects.
In one case, a notary was convicted of bribery for receiving SR15.5 million in exchange for illegally issuing a deed of land ownership. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined SR700,000. The person who paid the bribe was jailed for five years and fined SR500,000. A citizen convicted of delivering the bribe was given a five-year sentence and fined SR500,000.
The secretary-general of a national committee affiliated with the Ministry of Interior was convicted of embezzlement, forgery, use of forged documents and money laundering. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined SR1,020,000. A businessman convicted in connection with the case was jailed for seven years, fined SR500,000, ordered to pay back SR3 million that had been embezzled, and banned from traveling for three years after release from prison.
A former ambassador was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for illegally issuing Hajj and Umrah visas in exchange for payments. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined SR300,000.
A member of the Public Prosecution was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for requesting SR30,000 from a citizen in exchange for dismissing a pending case. He was jailed for three years and fined SR30,000.
The authority said it will continue to pursue anyone suspected of exploiting public office for personal gain or harming the public interest in any way, and that guilty individuals will be held accountable whenever they are identified, even after retirement, as there is no statute of limitations on such cases and a zero-tolerance policy applies in matters involving corruption.
JEDDAH: As teachers and education authorities prepare for the long-awaited return of younger children to school classrooms on Sunday, so too are the students and their parents.
The Saudi Ministry of Education announced last week that elementary schools and kindergartens will reopen on Jan. 23, almost two years after they closed as a health precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The resumption of in-person teaching for the under-12s had been postponed from October last year.
“It’s a decision we must face one day and my children are excited to return to school and it is better for them,” Ala’a Alama, mother of two, told Arab mobile notary
Schools in Saudi Arabia closed classrooms and switched to online learning soon after the pandemic began in early 2020. More than 5 million students across the Kingdom used specially developed distance-learning platforms called Madrasati and Rawdati.  Jumana Haj Ahmad, UNICEF’s deputy representative for the Gulf region, said that Saudi authorities had played a world-leading role in the provision of online education.
In preparation for the long-awaited return of students, senior school officials across the Kingdom have implemented a program to prepare pupils, parents and teachers for a safe resumption of classes.
• In preparation for the long-awaited return of students, senior school officials across the Kingdom have implemented a program to prepare pupils, parents and teachers for a safe resumption of classes.
• It focus on four key areas: Reassuring students and parents about the return to school and face-to-face learning; reminding them of the importance of adhering to safety protocols while in school; providing parents with a platform through which they can ask questions and share concerns; and motivating students to study and participate in activities.
It focus on four key areas: Reassuring students and parents about the return to school and face-to-face learning; reminding them of the importance of adhering to safety protocols while in school; providing parents with a platform through which they can ask questions and share concerns; and motivating students to study and participate in mobile notary
For the first few weeks after schools reopen the program will in particular focus on psychological efforts to help students get back into the school routine. As part of the program, schools will offer art activities, children’s theater, cultural and entertainment workshops, take photos and shoot videos as students return, and distribute gifts.
Alama said that psychological preparation and support is important for the children as it will help them to resume their studies and interactions with their peers.
Schools will also provide 22 cultural, sports and awareness activities to give students plenty of opportunities to get physically active again after a hiatus of almost two years.
Meanwhile, the online education facilities will remain available for children with serious health conditions that prevent them from returning to the classroom.
Educators in charge of kindergartens and elementary schools across the Kingdom will follow safety guidelines from the Saudi Public Health Authority: Morning assemblies will remain suspended; sports activities must be conducted in spacious, well-ventilated locations; organized entry and departure from school will be organized; and social-distancing measures must be followed in classrooms.
Alama said her children, who are 7 and 10 years old, are aware of all the precautionary measures they need to follow.
“During the pandemic, they learned the importance of washing their hands, maintaining social distancing, and using masks, sanitizers and disinfecting wipes, which are all kept in a kit prepared for them to take to school,” she said.
UNICEF’s Ahmad this week praised the decision by Saudi authorities to resume in-person teaching for children under the age of 12. Older children have already returned to classrooms.
Ahmad said it is an important step and added that during a pandemic, schools should be the last places to close and first to reopen.
 In addition,  Saudi Arabia’s provision of online education through its two platforms and TV and video channels was world-leading. She also praised the Ministry of Education’s efforts to ensure children’s successful psychological and social growth, and programs designed to protect them from abuse.
MAKKAH: As part of its plan to develop and upgrade the quality of the guidance system, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new service for worshippers, providing them with interactive screens that display the guidance map of the Grand Mosque and its facilities.
It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf (the area for circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba) and Mas’a building, through providing direct movement paths from the location of the user to the destination.
The interactive screens also display data in six major languages and provide a QR code so that the routes can be viewed via personal devices. 
RIYADH: Legal and financial experts have supported the decision of the Saudi Attorney General Saud Al-Mojeb to create new specialized units for investigating financial fraud.
Zahra Al-Nasser, an assistant professor in the department of finance and banking at Dar Al-Uloom University, told Arab News that the move to form new specialized units to investigate financial fraud will significantly enhance business sector governance and protect against the degradation of the pillars of economic prosperity.
“The best example is the collapse of the Saudi financial market in 2006. The market lost more than SR1 trillion ($266 billion), which is still fresh in the minds of investors, affected investor confidence, and resulted in the loss of much of their wealth and savings. One of the reasons was the Saudi market’s weak legislation,” Al-Nasser said.
Thamer Al-Enezi, a legal adviser, told Arab News that financial fraud has become an international issue, deceiving some highly educated workers due to its professionalism.
Al-Enezi said it was necessary to have highly efficient specialists to deal with fraud.
The Public Prosecution stressed the importance of addressing all cases of financial fraud, particularly those that involve cross-border networks.
The new legislation defines all aspects of financial crimes in detail and sets out the maximum penalties while taking into account the rapid pace of technological advances.
The Public Prosecution added that the new units have specialists in financial fraud crimes who are members of the Public Prosecution Office and have received investigation training courses.
The courses include criminal patterns and methods, tracking perpetrators, and stolen funds.
Al-Enezi, who owns a law firm, added that some financial frauds use the corporate entity as a cover, affecting the corporate sector’s reliability.
Therefore, a package of preventive measures was taken by government agencies such as the Saudi Central Bank and other authorities such as the Public Prosecution to protect society from money fraud. These measures help adhere to high governance standards and maintain formidable cybersecurity levels.
Al-Enezi pointed out that some of these crimes have technical flaws that facilitate financial fraud detection.
The law for combating financial fraud stipulates that guilty parties will be imprisoned “for no more than seven years and fined no more than SR5 million.”
Al-Nasser said that companies are now expected to take bolder steps to fight fraud, such as updating frameworks and approaches, increasing commitment and compliance, enhancing precautions and using deeper audits.
She said that companies may incur additional costs as they update procedures because many of them fall into financial fraud due to “weak internal governance mechanisms.”
The assistant professor praised the new units and focus on financial fraud, which she said would improve investor confidence and contribute to “the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals through the Financial Sector Development Program, which aims to deepen the financial market, increase liquidity levels and improve transparency.”
RIYADH: The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale kicked off its two-day local art ecosystem forum to build bridges of knowledge and communication between the participating cultural entities.
This public program, held in the Jax neighborhood in Diriyah, is supporting the growth of the local art ecosystem in the Kingdom by gathering important contributors and investors interested in shaping the infrastructure of Saudi art and culture.
The forum sheds light on the opportunities that the different entities’ initiatives provide and seeks to grow a bigger network to strengthen the vision for art and cultural development in Saudi.
Key speakers of the first day of the forum included Aya Albakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission, Farah Abushullaih, museum director at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, and Nora AlDabal, arts and creative planning director at the Royal Commission For AlUla.
The second day’s programs will see input from Ilaria Bonacossa, arts and culture liaison at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, Navid Niknejad, business enterprise and innovation director at AMAALA, Reem Alsultan, CEO of the Misk Art Institute, and Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel.
The biennale, which opened to the public officially on Dec.11 and will run until March 11 next year, is located in the newly converted warehouses in the JAX district. It unfolds in six sections, featuring works by some 64 artists from around the world, with a particular focus on the 27 Saudi artists.
RIYADH: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and reiterated Washington’s support for the Kingdom and Gulf countries in a phonecall with foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Blinken said the US was committed to helping Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies defend themselves against threats from Yemen and other places in the region, the State Department said.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated the US commitment to help Gulf partners improve their capabilities to defend against threats from Yemen and elsewhere in the region and underscored the importance of mitigating civilian harm,” spokesman Ned Price said.
Friday’s call came after this week’s attacks on Abu Dhabi in the UAE and continued launches aimed toward Saudi Arabia, claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.
Civilian sites, including Abu Dhabi’s International Airport, were targeted with missiles and drones. At least three civilians were killed, and a handful of others injured in the UAE capital.
“The Secretary condemned the January 17 Houthi attack on both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that struck civilian sites in the UAE, including Abu Dhabi’s international airport, and killed and wounded civilians,” Price said in the statement.