US treasurer, banks to attend Saudi event amid media, technology boycott

The file photo shows US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a White House reception for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the East Room of the White in Washington, DC, September 12, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)
The file photo shows US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a White House reception for Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in the East Room of the White in Washington, DC, September 12, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and top Wall Street banks have announced their intention to attend a major investment gathering in the Saudi capital of Riyadh despite a boycott protesting the fate of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi by numerous media and technology companies.

“I am planning on going at this point. If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that, but I am planning on going,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.

Moreover, none of the top financial firms whose senior executives had previously announced their intention to take part in the conference have indicated any change in plans after being contacted by Reuters.

The Future Investment Initiative (FII), unofficially known as the “Davos of the Desert”, was intended to be a significant event for investors to promote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision of reform but has been boycotted by officials from notable media and technology firms such as the The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, the Financial Times, CNBC, Viacom and Uber, two weeks prior to its scheduled inauguration.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is another high-profile speaker that has also announced his withdrawal from the conference.

A Saudi diplomat speaking on the matter has, however, said that he looks forward to a joint Turkish-Saudi probe into the scandal reaching a conclusion before the event takes place.

The obscure fate and alleged killing of Khasshoggi has led to numerous US and European politicians calling for a revision in arms deals and diplomatic relations with the oil-rich kingdom, a call that has been openly disregarded by US President Donald Trump due to the country’s stake in the arms trade with Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi, a Virginia-based critic of bin Salman’s policies, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last week for some paperwork regarding his marriage, but never exited the mission.

News of his disappearance broke out after Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the diplomatic building, notified the police.

The Saudi dissident’s fate, however, remains shrouded in mystery, with several reports indicating that he has been either killed or kidnapped at the consulate by 15 Saudi operatives — among them bin Salman’s elite close protection unit — who had arrived in Istanbul on the same day, only to leave Turkish soil hours later.

One chilling report obtained by The Washington Post alleges that recordings of Saudi consulate officials obtained by Turkish investigators assert that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and even dismembered in the diplomatic building.

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