Politics: Individuals and businesses are distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia following the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Global business leaders, policymakers, media moguls and tech executives are backing away from the Kingdom.

Several individuals and entities have begun distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia following the disappearance of journalist and prominent Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was last seen on October 2, when he entered into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to secure official documents for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiance Hatice Cengiz.

The 59-year-old, who formerly served as an adviser to senior officials in the Saudi government and who had been living in self-imposed exile in the US, has not been seen since.

Some have speculated that he could have been kidnapped or killed inside the consulate, reportedly at the order of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman using a team of hit men flown in specially to undertake the task.

Official response to Khashoggi’s disappearance have been mixed.

Saudi officials claim that The Washington Post contributor left the consulate, but haven’t provided any definitive proof. Turkish officials previously alleged that Khashoggi was killed and claim there’s no evidence he ever left the consulate, while Canada, the UN, and President Trump have expressed “concern” over the journalist’s whereabouts.

In a story published Thursday, The Washington Post said the Turkish government told US officials it has audio and video showing that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Global business leaders, policymakers, media moguls and tech executives have also taken notice and are beginning to move away from dealings with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Group

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Group are severing ties with Saudi Arabia because of the Khashoggi case.

In a blog post on Virgin Group’s website, Branson announced that Virgin Galatic and Virgin Orbit will suspend its discussions with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

“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 wrote. “We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr. Khashoggi.”

US lawmakers

Nearly two dozen senators, led by the Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee and the Democratic ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, have sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, recommending an investigation and possible sanctions against those found to be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are also pushing to block Saudi arms sales.

Former US secretary of energy Ernest Moniz

Former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz suspended his membership on an advisory board for a $500 billion Saudi megacity project called Neom.

“Given current events, I am suspending my participation on the Neom board. Going forward, my engagement with the advisory board will depend on learning all the facts about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance over the coming days and weeks,” Moniz said in a statement provided to Business Insider.

Google-linked executive Dan Doctoroff

Dan Doctoroff, the founder of Sidewalk Labs, an urban planning unit of the Google parent company, Alphabet, also retreated from the Neom project.

In a statement, spokesperson Dan Levitan indicated that Doctoroff’s inclusion on the list of executives said to be on the advisory board — first reported by Saudi news outlet Argaam — was “incorrect.”

“He is not a member of the Neom advisory board,” Levitan said. The spokesman did not respond to follow-up questions from Business Insider news editor Rob Price about whether Doctoroff had ever been associated with the NEOM advisory board.

Neelie Kroes, a former vice president of the European Commission

Kroes told The Wall Street Journal she was also suspending her role in the Neom project “until more is known” on Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Sam Altman, partner at Y Combinator

Altman was also on the advisory board for the Saudi mega-project.

“I am suspending my involvement with the Neom advisory board until the facts regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance are known,” Altman said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times

The New York Times pulled its sponsorship of the Future Investment Initiative (FII), a major conference which was set to be hosted by the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund in Riyadh.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times columnist, said he was “terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder,” and said he would not attend the conference.

Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief at The Economist

Zanny Minton Beddoes, who serves as editor-in-chief at The Economist, is also pulling away from the FII conference.

Spokeswoman Lauren Hackett told Reuters Beddoes would no longer be participating.

Media mogul Arianna Huffington

Huffington, who founded HuffPost and had a seat on the advisory board for FII, said she no longer plans to attend, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, billionaire philanthropist and owner of the Los Angeles Times

“Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong will not be attending the upcoming Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh,” a spokesman told CNBC.

Viacom CEO Robert Bakish

A spokesman for Bakish said he has decided not to attend FII, per Reuters. Bakish was slated to speak at the event.

Billionaire AOL cofounder and venture capitalist Steve Case

Case was scheduled to speak at the conference, but he said on Thursday: “I was looking forward to returning to Riyadh this month to speak at the Future Investment Initiative conference, and participate in a Red Sea Project meeting.”

“In light of recent events, I have decided to put my plans on hold, pending further information regarding Jamal Khashoggi.”

Harbour Group, a US lobbying firm that represented the Saudi government

Harbour Group is one of several lobbying firms that represent the Saudi government. The firm earned $80,000 per month to represent the Saudi Embassy in Washington, but ended its contract on Thursday, The New York Times reported, citing the firm’s managing director, Richard Mintz.

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