- The Saudi Public Investment Fund, a huge sovereign wealth fund, has significant investments in many prominent American companies.
- Court documents show that the fund also owns planes that were used to carry out the 2018 assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
- Visit the Insider Business section for more stories.
This article was co-edited by Responsible governance Y Well-informed person.
In the spring of 2018, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street and major universities rolled out a red carpet for nearly three weeks to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to the United States.
During his trip, MBS met with Oprah Winfrey, Rupert Murdoch, Sergey Brin, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, among many others. The New York Times described the US tour as “seeking to change the perception of Saudi Arabia from an opaque and conservative kingdom, where mosques promote extremist ideology and women are relegated to second-class status, to an oasis in the world. modernist desert “.
But while MBS was the face of that effort, a huge sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, or PIF, with around $ 400 billion in assets and expected to grow to $ 2 trillion, it was the real deal. attractive to many of the tech companies. financial, financial and entertainment elites seeking photos and meetings with the 32-year-old heir to the Saudi throne.
Six months later, two planes owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund flew a team of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul, where they assassinated Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate. The planes then carried the kill team back to Saudi Arabia.
At least one of those planes was operating within the US in October.
The role of PIF assets in the assassination was made public in court documents filed in Canada as part of an embezzlement lawsuit brought by several Saudi state-owned companies against Saad Aljabri, a former senior Saudi intelligence official, who currently He is in exile and previously claimed in a lawsuit filed in DC District Court that MBS attempted to send a kill team to assassinate him shortly after Khashoggi’s murder.
Canadian court filings, first reported by CNN and later acquired and reviewed by Responsible Statecraft and Insider, reveal that Sky Prime Aviation was transferred to PIF on December 22, 2017. Two Gulfstream jets owned by Sky Prime Aviation transported the killers from Khashoggi in and out of Istanbul less than a year after Sky Prime Aviation’s transfer to PIF.
“TOP SECRET NOT FOR CIRCULATION AND VERY URGENT,” reads the top of the document detailing the transfer of a group of companies, including Sky Prime Aviation, to the PIF.
The document addresses:
“In accordance with the instruction of His Highness the Crown Prince, Chairman of the Supreme Committee for Cases of Public Corruption, to transfer the ownership of all the companies referred to in my aforementioned letter to the ownership of the Public Investment Fund, to approve immediately the completion of the procedures necessary to do so “.
“Given the central role of the crown prince in terms of controlling the assets of Saudi Arabia and the government in general, there needs to be an independent international investigation to identify which state assets were used in this gruesome assassination,” said Kate Kizer, Director of advocacy group policies Win Without War.
The release of the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week, which concluded that MBS approved the operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi, led to the implementation of the Magnitsky Act sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence chief and group members. who participated in the murder.
But ultimately, the Biden administration decided not to directly sanction or penalize MBS, despite ODNI’s assessment that it approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
“It is a violation of Biden’s campaign promise to hold Khashoggi’s killers accountable,” said Michael Eisner, general counsel for Democracy in the Arab World Now, a group founded by Khashoggi shortly before his assassination.
“Now we know who ordered the assassination and he will not face the same consequences as his foot soldiers,” Eisner said. “That goes against the basic principle of justice that the person who orders a murder must face a punishment no less severe than the infantrymen who carried it out.”
The Magnitsky Law can have far-reaching implications.
The Treasury Department describes it as implemented “in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuses and corruption originating, in whole or in substantial part, outside of the United States, had reached such scope and severity that threatened the stability of international politics, political and economic systems. “
“The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuses or engage in acts of corruption, as well as to protect the United States’ financial system from abuse by these same individuals,” says the Treasury.
“The Biden administration should enforce US Magnitsky Global Act sanctions and travel bans on senior executives at the PIF based on the use of PIF aircraft to fly the Saudi killers of Jamal Khashoggi between Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” Sunjeev said Bery, executive director of the advocacy group Freedom. Forward. “It is ridiculous that, on the one hand, the PIF is providing travel support to the Khashoggi killers and at the same time doing business deals with Uber and other Silicon Valley companies.”
While the role of PIF assets was not mentioned in the ODNI report or the sanctions announcement, MBS ‘role as PIF chairman and the use of PIF assets, the two Gulfstream aircraft, raises questions about the participation of the fund in the murder and the knowledge of other PIF executives about the operation to kidnap or kill Khashoggi.
PIF did not respond to a request for comment about the role its planes played in the assassination and what knowledge or involvement, if any, PIF had in the approval or operation of the flights to Istanbul.
PIF’s status as a heavily courted investor certainly creates considerable incentives for authorities to keep the discussion about the fund’s role in the assassination as quiet as possible. Funds like PIF can buy shares in any publicly traded company, and two weeks ago, PIF increased its investment in US stocks to nearly $ 12.8 billion. The fund has a stake of $ 1.38 billion in Activision Blizzard, $ 3.7 billion in Uber, $ 1.06 billion in Electronic Arts, $ 923 million in Live Nation and $ 1.1 billion in Carnival Cruise Lines.
Sky Prime Aviation, for its part, has taken steps to limit publicly accessible data on the ongoing flight activities of the planes used in the operation that killed Khashoggi. But, like MBS and the PIF, its operations within the US appear to continue without significant limitations or consequences stemming from the assassination.
RadarBox, a system that tracks flight data, shows one of the Gulfstream jets that was used to bring the team to kill Turkey in 2018 flying within the US late last year. On October 13, the Gulfstream IV with tail number HZ-SK1 left Boston and flew to Fort Lauderdale, arriving in the late afternoon. It was the same plane that transported the second group of assassins from Riyadh to Istanbul.