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Branson suspends negotiations with Saudi Arabia

Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson today announced that he is suspending negotiations with Saudi Arabia’s investment funds because of their involvement in the disappearance and possible murder of a journalist in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

“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.

It was expected that Saudi Arabia was going to invest about a billion dollars in Branson’s space companies, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

Branson has also suspended his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects.

I must wonder if what really has happened is that the Saudi’s were becoming reluctant to commit funds to Branson because of the lack of success at Virgin Galactic, and Branson is therefore providing himself cover for the failure of the negotiations by claiming it was he that pulled out, for different reasons.

At the same time, what happened to Khashoggi might justify Branson’s actions.

He had an appointment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect some documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee — a certificate showing that he was divorced from his first wife. He entered the consulate on Oct. 2 at 1:14 p.m., asking his fiancee to wait outside for him. She did. Until 2 a.m. He never emerged.

A number of news outlets, citing Turkish sources, are reporting that Jamal Khashoggi, the former editor of a Saudi newspaper, regime critic and Washington Post contributor, was murdered. The New York Times quoted sources who said that 15 Saudi agents from the security services, including one autopsy expert, entered Turkey that same day on two chartered flights. They departed that evening. The Saudis claim that Khashoggi left the consulate an hour after he arrived and have no idea what became of him. The Turks would like to send a forensic team inside, but the Saudis have refused.

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7 comments

  • Cotour

    MBS is showing a little too much of his nature to absolutely abuse power and killing his opposition. This will not be a good thing in the long or short term for him and the Saudi’s.

    Nope, not good at all.

  • DJN

    quote “I must wonder if what really has happened is that the Saudi’s were becoming reluctant to commit funds to Branson because of the lack of success at Virgin Galactic, and Branson is therefore providing himself cover for the failure of the negotiations by claiming it was he that pulled out, for different reasons.”

    My thoughts the same. Lots of news reports of tight budgets in Saudi Arabia and concern for funding projects to move SA off the crude oil teet.

  • wodun

    The media always says this reporter was a dissident but they never say what his views were. He was a MB supporting Islamist. I don’t like executions without trial and think punishments should fit the crime. At the same time, we have to look at the battle for control of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world that is taking place.

    I suspect no small part of the outrage from the media is that they have chosen sides in the battle between Islamism and more secular ways of governing.

  • Cotour

    “Reform” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Reform in America and in the West has some very different parameters and rules of operation and proof of validity.

    Saudi Arabia just like China must in the end truly free their people if they want to truly ascend to where they aspire to ascend to, which is fundamentally at 180 degree opposition to how they must at their core operate. A paradox of the first order.

    This is just one more reason why America must never lay down and “lead from behind” as was proposed by the radical American president Obama who had the nerve to propose and attempted to live by those words.

    America has a fundamental responsibility to lead the world, like it or not.

  • It’s possible they were planning to announce they had finalized the deal at the upcoming Saudi investment summit that most people are pulling out of now.

    Alternatively, they might have been awaiting the next flight test of SpaceShipTwo, which will probably involve an attempt to reach space. If the flight occurred before the investment summit, the timing would have been perfect.

    Branson is especially skilled at branding and image. This case damages both. I can’t see the deal going through unless the journalist miraculously turns up alive.

  • OM: Why do you keep coming here to advocate murder? I can NOT have that on BtB, and have deleted your comment. Do it again, and your are gone, for good. You’ve pushed my buttons too many times already.

  • pzatchok

    I was thinking

    What if the Saudi’s just arrested him and he is now back in Saudi Arabia undergoing serious questioning? Rendition. The Turks could just be helping them.

    This whole dead or missing man is a good cover for them to get information out of him and then act on it.

    They would not want to prove one way or another that he is alive or dead. Yet.

    And seriously kill the guy in the consulate and leave the body there? It would be easier to follow him and do it miles away. Make it look like anything from a car jacking to a serious car accident.

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