Saudi arts hub CEO arrested for money laundering: Statement

AFP , Monday 29 Jan 2024

The head of a tourism and heritage project meant to help establish Saudi Arabia as a global arts hub has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering, authorities announced late Sunday.

Amr bin Saleh Abdulrahman al-Madani, Saudi CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla
Amr bin Saleh Abdulrahman al-Madani, Saudi CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla in the northwestern Medina region, speaks to an employee while touring the Sharaan Nature Reserve near the town of al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia on February 11, 2019. AFP

 

Amr bin Saleh Abdulrahman AlMadani, chief executive of the Royal Commission for AlUla in the northwestern Medina region, "was arrested for his involvement in crimes of abuse of authority and money laundering", the official anti-corruption authority said in a statement.

Both before and after he assumed his position, AlMadani was allegedly involved in illegally obtaining contracts for a separate company in which he has an ownership stake, the statement said, putting the value of the contracts at around 207 million Saudi riyals ($55 million).

"Legal procedures are currently being taken against the detainees for prosecution in a court of law, in line with the laws and regulations," the statement said.

The website for the Royal Commission of AlUla on Monday did not refer to AlMadani and instead listed Abeer AlAkel as acting CEO.

AlUla is home to the Hegra archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its ancient Nabataean tombs dotted amid sandstone mountains and wadis.

In recent years authorities have pushed to establish it as a top-tier arts destination, part of a broader push to turn Saudi Arabia into a tourism hub as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform agenda.

The area now boasts luxury eco-resorts and a posh theatre covered in mirrored panels that has seen performances by the likes of Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.

Beginning next month, it will host the latest iteration of Desert X, billed as "a recurring and temporary, site-responsive, international open-air art exhibition".

Prince Mohammed vowed to curb corruption shortly after he became first in line to the throne in 2017.

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