Global busi­ness lead­ers sus­pend ties with Saudis

The Detroit News - - News - BY DANICA KIRKA AND SUZAN FRASER Associated Press

Lon­don – Global busi­ness lead­ers are re­assess­ing their ties with Saudi Ara­bia, stok­ing pres­sure on the Gulf king­dom to ex­plain what hap­pened to a dis­si­dent writer who dis­ap­peared af­ter vis­it­ing its con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Bri­tish bil­lion­aire

Richard Bran­son on

Fri­day sus­pended busi­ness links with

Saudi Ara­bia, and

Uber CEO Dara

Khos­row­shahi said he might not at­tend a ma­jor in­vest­ment con­fer­ence in the coun­try this month amid re­ports that Ja­mal Khashoggi may have been killed at the Saudi con­sulate in Turkey’s fi­nan­cial cen­ter.

“What has re­port­edly hap­pened in Turkey around the dis­ap­pear­ance of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the abil­ity of any of us in the West to do busi­ness with the Saudi gov­ern­ment,” Bran­son said in a state­ment.

Turkey’s gov­ern­ment has told U.S. of­fi­cials it has au­dio and video proof that Khashoggi was killed and dis­mem­bered in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, the Washington Post re­ported Fri­day.

The news­pa­per, for which Khashoggi is a colum­nist, cited anony­mous of­fi­cials as say­ing the record­ings show a Saudi se­cu­rity team de­tained the writer when he went to the con­sulate on Oct. 2 to pick up a doc­u­ment for his up­com­ing wed­ding.

The Associated Press was not im­me­di­ately able to con­firm the re­port and Turk­ish of­fi­cials would not com­ment.

Mean­while, a del­e­ga­tion from Saudi Ara­bia ar­rived in Turkey on Fri­day as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the writer’s dis­ap­pear­ance, a For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial said.

Bran­son, founder of Vir­gin Group, says he will sus­pend his role as di­rec­tor in two tourism projects in Saudi Ara­bia while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion takes place. He also is putting on hold dis­cus­sions about a pro­posed Saudi in­vest­ment in space com­pa­nies Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic and Vir­gin Or­bit.

Saudi Ara­bia is fac­ing in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to clar­ify what hap­pened to Khashoggi with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt among those de­mand­ing an­swers.

Khos­row­shahi is sched­uled to speak at the Fu­ture In­vest­ment Ini­tia­tive con­fer­ence, and event loosely nick­named the “Davos of the Desert” that takes place Oct. 23-25 in the Saudi cap­i­tal, Riyadh.

“I’m very trou­bled by the re­ports to date about Ja­mal Khashoggi,” Khos­row­shahi said. “We are fol­low­ing the sit­u­a­tion closely, and un­less a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent set of facts emerges, I won’t be at­tend­ing the FII con­fer­ence in Riyadh.”

The de­ci­sion could put Khos­row­shahi and Uber in an awk­ward spot be­cause Saudi Ara­bia’s Pub­lic In­vest­ment Fund owns about a 5.6 per­cent stake in the pri­vately held ride-hail­ing app. The fund in­vested $3.5 bil­lion 2016 as Uber was grow­ing quickly.

The in­vest­ment con­fer­ence lists dozens of ex­pected speak­ers, in­clud­ing JP­Mor­gan Chase CEO Jamie Di­mon, Black­rock Chair­man Larry Fink and U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin, the lat­ter con­firm­ing Fri­day that he will go.

“I am plan­ning on go­ing at this point,” he told broad­caster CNBC. “If more in­for­ma­tion comes out and changes, we could look at that.”

Joe Kaeser, the pres­i­dent and CEO of Ger­man in­dus­trial gi­ant Siemens AG, also still plans to at­tend for now.

The Fi­nan­cial Times, which is listed as a me­dia part­ner to the event, an­nounced it would no longer be do­ing so. Bloomberg also said it would no longer serve as a me­dia part­ner, thought it planned to cover the event.

CNN can­celed its part­ner­ship, and said its an­chors and re­porters would no longer mod­er­ate pan­els. The New York Times and its busi­ness colum­nist Andrew Ross Sorkin sim­i­larly pulled out of the event. CNBC also said Fri­day it would not par­tic­i­pate.


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