The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was not an isolated incident but part of a larger policy authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman more than a year earlier to forcibly repatriate, detain and torture Saudi dissidents, according to a new report.
In fact, The New York Times reported over the weekend, so busy were the teams assigned to this macabre duty that they asked for a bonus last June.
The information came from American officials who had read various intelligence reports and Saudis with direct knowledge of the operations, the Times said. All spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fears of repercussions – the Americans because they had divulged classified information, and the Saudis because of what their government allegedly does when it is angry.
It comes in stark contrast to the Saudi government’s initial assertion that the Oct. 2 murder of the dissident journalist was carried out by rogue agents who took matters into their own hands.
Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, was murdered and dismembered on Oct. 2 by a hit squad in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul last year when he went to pick up documents that would allow him to marry a Turkish woman.
In the two weeks before the latest allegations became public, the prince – known by his initials MBS – was notably absent from several high-level meetings, leading to speculation that he had been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, The Guardian reported on Monday.
Informally, Harvard-educated Musaed al-Aiban, a trusted advisor to King Salman, MBS’s father, has been handed oversight of investment decisions, The Guardian said.
The Trump administration in November sanctioned 17 Saudi officials implicated in the assassination, many of whom have also been indicted by the Saudis themselves.
Over the past few months, U.S. entities have pulled hundreds of millions of dollars in investments out of Saudi Arabia, and last Wednesday the U.S. State Department called out the Middle Eastern nation about the killing in an annual human-rights report.
Earlier this month prominent talent agency Endeavor returned $400 million in investment to the Saudi government, The New York Times reported. Also spurning Saudi Arabian money were Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who the Times said suspended talks over potential investments in the space-travel business he is embarking on. And several companies were no-shows at a major investment conference set to be held in capital Riyadh.