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Virgin Group latest to boycott Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi disappearance

Richard Branson and MBS during his California visit [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 October, 2018

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The company's CEO Richard Branson made the announcement on Thursday, saying he would halt talks over $1 billion in investments in the kingdom.
Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson announced on Thursday that he is suspending two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia and talks over $1 billion in investments in the kingdom due to the presumed murder of dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it is why I was delighted to accept two directorships in the tourism projects around the Red Sea," Branson wrote in a public statement.

"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 added.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who has been critical of the Saudi government, has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Turkish officials have said the journalist was murdered and dismembered in the consulate by a 15-person Saudi assassination that arrived and left the country the same day. 

Branson's announcement, which is a major blow to the kingdom's Public Investment Fund, comes on the heels of other Western institutions boycotting Riyadh over the presumed death of Khashoggi.

Most recently, high-profile publications including the New York Times and The Economist have pulled out of the upcoming 23-25 October "Davos-in-the-desert" business summit.

Bin Salman had previously been warmly welcomed by influential Western business and technology figures such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, discussing investment opportunities for the kingdom's Vision 2030 programme.

During bin Salman's visit to the US, prominent business people and media outlets praised the young leader for his reforms in the kingdom, turning a blind eye to the rampant human rights violations in the country.

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