Treasury Secretary Mnuchin ‘planning on going’ to Saudi event despite journalist’s disappearance

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend a Saudi investment conference later this month, despite growing outrage over the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A flurry of media companies and top executives have announced they are pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh on October 23. It comes after allegations were made about the kingdom’s connection to Khashoggi after he went missing at the start of the month.

Khashoggi, a well-known critic of the Saudi government, has not been seen since entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul last week. Turkish authorities have claimed he was murdered by Saudi agents.

Riyadh has denied killing Khashoggi and the kingdom have insisted he left the consulate shortly after he arrived.

“We are concerned about what is the status of Mr Khashoggi … (But) I am planning on going at this point,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore on Friday.

“If more information comes out and changes, we could look at that but I am planning on going,” he added.

The conference, often referred to as “Davos in the desert,” had attracted some of the world’s business elite, including top bosses and executives from media, tech and financial services.

However, the news of Khashoggi’s disappearance has since prompted several attendees to withdraw from the FII conference this year.

Economist Editor-In-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, CNBC anchor and journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin and media sponsor to the event, The New York Times, have all said they will no longer attend the conference, Reuters reported Friday.

Meanwhile, British billionaire Richard Branson said Thursday his Virgin Group would suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group’s space ventures.

When asked what advice he would give to other executives debating whether to attend the three-day conference, Mnuchin replied: “We all want information so let’s wait and see what information comes out in the next week.”

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