Richard Branson Withdraws From $1bn Investment Talks with Saudi Arabia

Photo by Jarle Naustvik via Flickr

Late on Thursday night, Richard Branson, the boss of Virgin, said that he had scrapped negotiations with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia regarding a supposed $1 billion (£755 million) investment into its space ventures. The announcement comes amidst the disappearance of a prominent journalist of the Washington Post.

In a statement, Branson stated: “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.”

He said that he would also be suspending his directorship of two tourism projects with Saudi while he waits for a response from the Saudi authorities with further information regarding the disappearance of Khashoggi.

Jamal Khashoggi is a well-known critic of the policies of Saudi Arabia. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the 2nd of October. Turkish sources have implied that Khashoggi was already killed inside the building.

Various high-profile media outlets and firms have also pulled out of their engagements at an upcoming investment conference that was set to be held in Saudi Arabia, including Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of Uber, and journalists from the New York Times, CNBC, and the Economist.

Last Thursday, Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, commented during an interview with Reuters that the disappearance of Khashoggi was “extremely troubling.” He demanded a proper investigation and explanation into the situation from the government of Saudi Arabia.

However, Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America, said that while the US is waiting for a similar report from the authorities, he would not be suspending the $110 billion ongoing investment of Saudi Arabia into the military equipment of the US.

Last Thursday, Trump told reporters: “They’re spending $110bn on military equipment and on things that create jobs … for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110bn into the United States, because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”