Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Commission Boss Amr Al-Madani Arrested on Corruption Allegations

Amr Al-Madani, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has been arrested in connection to allegations of corruption.

Nazaha, Saudia Arabia’s oversight and anti-corruption authority, posted a statement on Sunday saying Al-Madani had been arrested for his involvement in “crimes of abuse of authority and money laundering.”

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He is accused of benefiting from “illegally obtained contracts” valued at around $55 million made between Saudia Arabia’s sustainable energy research sector and the National Talents Company, a group he partially owns. Al Madani is also accused of directly profiting from the projects through money transfers from two family members employed by the company, who, according to Nazaha, have also been arrested and confessed to their involvement. Al-Madani is in custody awaiting prosecution. He has been replaced as acting head of the commission by Abeer Al Akel.

Nazaha said Al-Madani continued to hold a stake in National Talents Company after he took up his post at AlUla in 2017 and recommended the company for RCU contracts. Allegedly, a family member who worked for National Talents channeled back some $340,000 in profits from those contracts to Al-Madani.

The heritage region of AlUla, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is at the center of the country’s plans to transform into a hub for tourism and creative industries, part of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision strategy to lessen its economic dependence on oil revenues. The area has seen massive investment to build facilities and attract international productions to shoot in the region, most prominently the 2023 Gerard Butler action film Kandahar. AlUla has become a fixture on the international film festival scene as it tries to raise its global industry profile. The RCU was set up in 2017 to oversee this work under the banner of Film AlUla. Some have accused the RCU and the AlUla project of so-called “art-washing,” of using the investment in culture and entertainment as a means of countering negative coverage of Saudia Arabia’s human rights record, including the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the Royal Commission for AlUla for comment.

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