A handful of the world’s finance leaders including IMF head Christine Lagarde have postponed travel plans to the Middle East following shocking reports about the fate of a missing journalist.
Billed as a ‘blueprint for the twenty-second century’, the Future Investment Initiative (FII) will kick off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 23 October without a few of its high profiie guests.
The event, which has been dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert’, is the brainchild of the Gulf nation’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. He will also personally host the conference.
But the Crown Prince has now been linked to the fate of missing Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish capital Istanbul on 2 October.
Turskish officials have told global news service CNN that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered after he was murdered at the consulate.
CNN has reported that a group of Saudi men whom Turkish officials believe to be connected to Khashoggi’s apparent killing were led by a high-ranking intelligence officer, with one source saying he was close to the inner circle of the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Following these reports, a number of global banks and tech players including Google, Uber, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan Chase and HSBC have confirmed they will not attend the FII conference next week.
The IMF released a statement announcing that managing director Christine Lagarde’s trip to Riyadh has been “deferred”.
Media companies CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, The New York Times and Financial Times have also confirmed they will not attend the FII this year.
Saudi Arabia is an important economic ally for many Western nations and their companies, particularly the United States.
The oil-rich nation’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), inked a deal with US giant Blackstone last year to commit up to US$20 billion, most of which will be spent on infrastructure projects in the United States.
The PIF also announced plans to invest US$1 billion in Richard Branson’s space travel initiatives through the Virgin Group and will invest another US$1 billion in North American electric carmaker Lucid Motors.