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Virgin’s Branson halts talks on $1 bln Saudi investment in space ventures

Posted on Friday, 12th October 2018 @ 04:05 PM by Text Size A | A | A

British billionaire Richard Branson said on Thursday that his Virgin Group would suspend its discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures, in light of the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reports.

“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.

Branson also said he would suspend his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, citing 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 2 October  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 2 October.

Read: The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi and the Israel-Saudi alliance

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund said it planned to invest about $1 billion 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 United States has investigators overseas to assist Turkey in its investigation of the journalist’s disappearance and that they were also working with Saudi Arabia.

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Twenty-two US senators on Wednesday forced a US investigation of whether human rights sanctions should be imposed over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist last seen as he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey on Oct. 2, Reuters reports. In a letter, the senators said they had triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.

Washington knew… and apparently did nothing, reports Bloomberg based on a bombshell Washington Post report: U.S. intelligence services intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi, whose disappearance in Turkey last week threatens to damage the warm ties between the kingdom and Washington.

Turkish government sources have said that a former trusted aide of the Saudi royal family, who was shunned by Riyadh after criticizing Saudi policies, was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Jamal Khashoggi, 59, is an American-educated former adviser to Saudi royals. He worked for years as an advisor to Prince Turki al-Faisal, one of Saudi Arabia’s most recognizable public figures who represented the Kingdom as ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom

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