Trump officials and business leaders skipped out on Saudi Arabia's investment conference last year after Jamal Khashoggi's murder. This year, they're back.
Dozens of businesses and leading executives boycotted Saudi Arabia's annual investment conference last year, following the...Dozens of businesses and leading executives boycotted Saudi Arabia's annual investment conference last year, following the brutal murder of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Trump administration officials, Virgin Group, BlackRock, Blackstone, and many others shunned the event and many vowed not to contribute to Saudi Arabia's economic development as questions surrounding Khashoggi's disappearance remained unanswered. One year after his brutal murder, there are now audio recordings, Saudi admissions, and a 100-page UN report that reveal stunning details about the Kingdom's alleged role in the execution plot and its extensive cover up attempts. Despite this, many of the businesses and officials who distanced themselves from the event last year were in attendance this year, casting aside any political apprehension. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Dozens of businesses and individuals distanced themselves from Saudi Arabia's annual investment conference last year in response to the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In the weeks leading up to last year's Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh, also referred to as Davos in the Desert, details about Khashoggi's disappearance and subsequent murder were sparse but were enough to trigger international backlash and evoke strong responses from the world's leading business and finance firms. Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Group pulled out of attending the three-day conference and promised to suspend ties with Saudi Arabia because of the Khashoggi case. The company planned to partner with Saudi Arabia on a massive, high-speed pneumatic transit system, and Branson suspended a $1 billion investment into his space company, Virgin Galactic, from Saudi Arabia's public investment fund. Trump administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, boycotted the event over bipartisan backlash to the Saudi kingdom's suspected role in Khashoggi's disappearance. Larry Fink, BlackRock's billionaire CEO, reportedly pressed Saudi officials to postpone the event but later decided to drop out given the political climate. Steve Schwarzman, CEO of The Blackstone Group, reportedly acted in a similar manner before pulling out too. One year after his brutal murder, there are now audio recordings, Saudi admissions, and a 100-page UN report that reveal stunning details about the Kingdom's alleged role in the execution plot and its extensive cover up attempts. But remnants of last year's outrage seemed to have dissipated on Tuesday, as scores of global executives and political leaders descended upon the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh for this year's conference. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which organized the event, said that 6,000 people registered to attend this year's event, according to The New York Times. In total, over 150 executives across the world confirmed their attendance. "It's always great to be in the kingdom," Fink said during an opening panel, according to The Times. Schwarzman from the Blackstone Group, Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, and Michael Corbat, the head of Citigroup, were also in attendance. Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said in promotional material for the event that he was "delighted" to attend and showcase the companies new initiatives. According to The Times, Virgin Hyperloop One even rented out a massive display board to endorse its projects in the Kingdom. Trump administration officials were also in attendance. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, joined outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the elaborate event. According to The Times, Trump called Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of the conference and stressed the two nations' "continued strong partnership." Former World Bank president Jim Yong Kim pulled out of last year's conference, but this year the new president, David Malpass, chose to attend. "I'm not sure what has changed since last year when the World Bank and the world community said we are not gong to be a party to corruption, harassment of dissidents and to extrajudicial killings," Paul Cadario, a former World Bank senior manager, told The Times. But for many attendees, the prospect of investing in Saudi Arabia's emerging economy, which has seen vast cultural reforms over the last few years and ranks within the top 20 nations on earth in terms of annual gross domestic product, was enough to cast any political apprehension aside. SEE ALSO: A year after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia, the US seems to be returning to business as usual there Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Iran was responsible for the September 14 attack on Saudi...UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Iran was responsible for the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities and that his government would consider joining a US-led military effort. The attack on the Aramco plant wiped out half out about 5% of the world's daily production of crude oil. Yemen's Houthi rebel group claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the US and Saudi Arabia have pointed a finger towards Iran. Iran has denied the claims. Speaking to reporters en route to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Johnson said Britain would "consider in what way [it] could be useful" as part of a coordinated response. The US on Friday announced that it would be sending in a "moderate deployment" of US troops to Saudi Arabia in response to the attack. Iran warned against the move on Saturday, saying that it would destroy those who increase hostilities in the Gulf region. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there was "a very high degree of probability" that Iran was behind an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities that wiped out half of its production. Two major oil refineries in Saudi Arabia came under attack last week, knocking out about 5% of the world's daily production of crude oil, equal to about 5 million barrels. Yemen's Houthi rebel group claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the US and Saudi Arabia have pointed a finger towards Iran. Iran has denied the claims. Speaking to reporters flying with him to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Johnson said his government is now "attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran" for the September 14 attacks. "We think it very likely indeed that Iran was indeed responsible, using both drones and cruise missiles," he told reporters, according to the Guardian. "We will be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region," he added. Johnson stressed that he wanted to avoid escalating the situation in the region, but said Britain would respond to a call from its allies for military support. "On what kind of action we can take, you'll have seen that the Americans are proposing to do more to help to defend Saudi Arabia, and we will be following that closely," he said. "And clearly if we are asked, either by the Saudis or by the Americans, to have a role, then we will consider in what way we could be useful. "We will consider in what way we could be useful, if asked, depending on what the exact plan is." When pressed on what specific action the UK was willing to take the address the crisis, Johnson called for a unified response. Read more: China could be the biggest loser from the Saudi Arabia oil attack "There is certainly a case for responding together, and that's what we're going to do." Johnson's comments follow a US announcement on Friday that it would be sending in a "moderate deployment" of American troops to Saudi Arabia in response to the attack. "Iran has increased its military activity through direct attacks and support to its proxies in the region," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a press conference on Sunday, adding that the US has not yet decided on the exact number of troops. Iran warned against the move on Saturday, saying that it would destroy those who increase hostilities in the region. "Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited. We will pursue any aggressor," the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards Major General Hossein Salami said on state TV. "We are after punishment and we will continue until the full destruction of any aggressor." Johnson is set to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss the attacks while in New York, as well as Iran's continued detention of UK nationals, the Guardian said. SEE ALSO: The world's largest oil plant in Saudi Arabia was attacked ahead Aramco's plans for the biggest IPO ever Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's what 'Narcos' and 'Sicario' get wrong about Mexican drug cartels