Business baron and owner of Virgin group, Sir Richard Branson has put a hold on talks with Saudi investors after the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Besides discontinuing the talks of $1 billion with Saudi Arabia which the investors wanted to invest in his Virgin space firms he has also suspended directorship of two tourism projects. Jamal Khashoggi was a known critic of Saudi government and he disappeared in Istanbul while visiting the Saudi consulate and Turkish police declared that they have evidence proving that he was killed.
Expressing his sadness at the news, Sir Richard said that this development has changed the ability of businessmen in the West to do any kind of business with Saudi government. He said that the Saudi government has to give clear details about the disappearance of Khashoggi and state their role in his disappearance. Washington Post reported that Turkish authorities have shown video and audio evidence of Mr Khashoggi being murdered inside the Saudi consulate by Saudi agents though the charge has been denied by Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Arabian consulate officials in Istanbul state that he had left the consulate shortly after arrival though there is no evidence to prove that statement. Virgin group was in talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund called Public Investment Fund for an investment of $1 billion in its firms Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. These discussions have been going on since October last year when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud expressed his investment intention to Sir Richard. This was an effort by Saudi government to start investing in new avenues and move away from its dependence on oil. Several other western firms that were due to attend the Saudi Investment Conference that is scheduled to be held in Riyadh between October 23 and 25, 2018 have put their plans on hold or expressed their unwillingness to attend it.