Sir Richard Branson has suspended discussions with Saudi Arabia on that country’s investment in Virgin Galactic over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a statement at the Virgin Group website, Branson said that while the Saudi government investigates the whereabouts of Khashoggi, last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he will suspend his directorship in two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea.
“Virgin will also suspend its discussions with the Public Investment Fund over the proposed investment in our space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit,” the statement said.
Last year, Virgin Group and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia announced that the fund would invest $1 billion into Virgin Galactic and Spaceship Co., both based in Mojave, and Virgin Orbit, with an option for $480 million of future additional investment in space services.
“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,” Branson said in the statement.
Virgin Galactic is developing a space vehicle to take passengers to sub-orbital altitudes to experience weightlessness and then return to Earth, with Spaceship Co. manufacturing the vehicles. Virgin Orbit, in Long Beach, is developing rockets that will take small satellites into Earth orbit.
Turkish police sources have claimed Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was killed and his body dismembered in the Saudi consulate.