Richard Branson halts $1bn Saudi space deal over Jamal Kashoggi’s disappearance
‘What has reportedly happened in Turkey … if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government’
Bengaluru — British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group will suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $1bn investment in the group’s space ventures, in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“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 on Thursday.
Branson will also suspend his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, also because of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia since October 2 when Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies and a Washington Post journalist, went missing. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund said it planned to invest about $1bn in Branson's space company, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit.
Branson said on Thursday: “We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr Khashoggi.”
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the US had investigators overseas to assist Turkey in its investigation of the journalist’s disappearance and that they were also working with Saudi Arabia.