Eleven Saudi princes and dozens of current and former ministers have been arrested in a sweeping anti-corruption purge led by young Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The arrests came just hours after a new committee was formed by the crown prince under a royal decree issued by Saudi King Salman.

The purge is being seen as a move by the 32-year-old crown prince, nicknamed "MBS", to consolidate his power over the ultra-conservative kingdom. The powerful heir to the throne only recently signalled that major socio-religious reforms will be undertaken in Saudi Arabia.

None of the suspects in the high-profile detentions, which include four sitting ministers and "tens" of former ministers, have been named as yet. This was the first crackdown by the crown prince-headed committee, which officially aims to "preserve public money, punish corrupt people and those who exploit their positions".

According to an official press release, the renewed anti-corruption campaign is part of an "active reform agenda aimed at tackling a persistent problem that has hindered development efforts in the Kingdom in recent decades".

Saudi Arabia's state-backed broadcaster said the panel – which is empowered to investigate, arrest, issue travel bans and freeze assets – has launched a fresh probe into the 2009 floods and the Mers virus outbreak in 2012.

"We have noticed exploitation by some weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money," said King Salman. "The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees fit, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies."

Additionally, there were also high-profile sackings, which included the dismissal of three ministers – Economy and Planning Minister Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

No official explanation for the removals has been given yet. Meanwhile, top members of the royal family have been named as their replacements.

Deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia
The purge comes hours after Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed as the head of a newly-formed anti-corruption committee - File photo Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters