RIYADH: The arrest of dozens of Saudi royal figures, ministers and businessmen is just the start of an anti-corruption drive, the attorney general says.

Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb issued a statement describing the detentions as "merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists".

News of a major purge of Saudi Arabia's business and political leadership emerged on Sunday.

It is seen as bolstering the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

An anti-corruption body led by the crown prince, 32, ordered the detentions of 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of ex-ministers. Internationally known billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was reported to be among those held.
US President Donald Trump backed the move by the Saudi authorities.

"I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing," he tweeted.

"Some of those they are harshly treating have been 'milking' their country for years!" Mr Trump added.

Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb's statement on the progress of the investigation spoke of "phase one" being complete.

"A great deal of evidence has already been gathered, and detailed questioning has taken place," it continued.

"All those suspected to date, will have full access to legal resources, and the trials will be held in a timely and open manner for all concerned."

The update on the corruption probe came as the authorities continue to investigate a helicopter crash near Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen.

Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province, was returning from an inspection tour when his aircraft came down near Abha late on Sunday.

The cause of the crash is not clear.