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Policing internet fraud in Saudi Arabia : the mediation of risk in a theocratic society

Algarni, Abdullah Faze


Abdullah Faze Algarni


Adam Calverley


This thesis aims to contribute to current debates on the policing of Internet fraud by introducing the Saudi Arabian experience. Drawing on the findings of field research focusing on the capital city of Riyadh, this study assesses the extent to which the Saudi state response to Internet fraud fits in with contemporary debates on cybercrime control within a late-modern penal framework as theorised in Western literature. At the same time, the study provides a detailed micro-sociological account of how the policing of Internet fraud is carried out in different police units within the city in which the case study was conducted. This involves an in-depth investigation into both the organisational and operational dimensions of the Saudi police response to such criminal activity. In this respect, the thesis explores and analyses how this new aspect of policing activity fits in with not only the existing organisational practices, but also the occupational and individual concerns of frontline officers (McCahill, 2002). Moreover, the study considers the implications of the Arab, Islamic and specifically Saudi culture, social norms, values and political environment for police responses to Internet fraud.

An interpretive approach was adopted, employing a single case study strategy, which utilised two methods, i.e. participant observation and semi- structured interviews, to collect the required data. The observational data was generated from seven police departments that are directly involved in the policing of Internet fraud in Riyadh. Interviews were conducted with 41 participants, including representatives of both the managerial and operational levels at the units targeted in the observational work, officers from supporting departments and officers with key roles in planning, controlling and supervising the implementation of police policies and strategies in relation to Internet fraud, at both national and local levels.

The findings revealed that the only way in which Saudi control strategies in response to cybercrime can be aligned with those followed by Western authorities is in relation to the state’s ‘expressive gestures’ (Garland, 1996, 2001). In this regard, evidence demonstrated that the legal and organisational innovations introduced by the Saudi state, ostensibly to address informational crimes, had serious limitations in achieving their declared purposes and were perceived by police participants as intended only to create and sustain a favourable global image. In contrast, the study failed to find a clear and wide application of plural policing of Internet fraud, which is characterised by networks of calculation through deploying instrumental ordering practices and risk management technologies. In addition to the limited relevance in an autocratic society such as Saudi Arabia of the ideological, socio-economic and political conditions that facilitated the emergence of the notion of plural policing in Western societies, the Saudi police organisation also appeared unready to engage in networked policing of Internet fraud.

Moreover, it was shown how the policing response to Internet fraud was shaped by specific moral principles and cultural values. The findings of this thesis emphasise not only the persistent influence of ‘old’ cultural traditions and moral principles on officers’ perception of risk in Internet fraud and, consequently, their decision to respond to incidents brought to their attention, but also how police commitment to these cultural and religious values can place limits on the ability of technological systems to facilitate preventive policing of online fraudulent activities. Based on these findings, it is argued that policing of Internet fraud in Saudi Arabia, and the extent to which it aligns with the principles of crime control in late modernity, can only be understood by examining and analysing how new policing modes and cultural traditions merge and integrate to shape police response to such a novel criminal phenomenon as Internet fraud.


Algarni, A. F. (2012). Policing internet fraud in Saudi Arabia : the mediation of risk in a theocratic society. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 26, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Social sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2012


Thesis (3.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2012 Algarni, Abdullah Faze. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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