London, Oct 12: Sir Richard Branson has halted talks over one billion dollars Saudi investment in Virgin space firms after the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Sir Richard has also suspended directorships in two tourism projects. ''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, Sir Richard said in a statement, quoted the BBC.
"We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr Khashoggi.", the statement further said. Saudi Arabia has denied killing Mr Khashoggi and has insisted that he left the consulate shortly after he arrived. Mr Khashoggi, a noted critic of the Saudi government, disappeared when visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.
Virgin was in talks with Saudi sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund about a proposed one billion dollars investment in space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. Talks have been going on since October 2017, when the Saudi intention to invest was agreed by Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and Sir Richard. The Virgin investment plan was part of Saudi efforts to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil profits.
A number of high-profile business leaders and firms have put plans to attend a Saudi investment conference on hold, or have said they will not be attending.