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Saudi Arabia woos investors months after Khashoggi murder: Report

Top bankers praise Saudi Arabia's economic prospects, fail to mention Jamal Khashoggi's murder
Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed al-Jadaan speaks during financial sector conference in Riyadh (Reuters)

Despite journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate and the subsequent pullout of investors in the kingdom, a number of bankers from the world’s top financial institutions gathered in Riyadh to promote the country's economy, the Financial Times reported.

According to the report on Wednesday, HSBC CEO John Flint, JPMorgan’s investment chief Daniel Pinto, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group David Schwimmer and others praised Saudi Arabia’s economic prospects at Saudi Arabia’s Financial Sector Conference.

None of them condemned Khashoggi’s murder, the report said.

“The fact that there are issues in the press does not tell me I must run away from a place. In many cases it tells me I should run to [it] and invest because what we are most frightened of are things that we don’t talk about,” BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said, according to the FT report.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 37 people in connection with terrorism crimes, the majority of whom were Shia Muslims. Amnesty International criticised the executions as a "gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent" in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, has said that Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering will happen “sooner than you think”.

In October, days after Khashoggi was murdered, Riyadh hosted the Future Investment Initiative, a conference commonly referred to as "Davos in the Desert".

As it became increasingly clear top Saudi officials were behind Khashoggi’s disappearance, world and business leaders pulled out.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s international standing and the development of his signature Vision 2030 economic plan appeared under threat. Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post and Middle East Eye, was killed and dismembered in October by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. 

The CIA concluded last autumn that bin Salman was behind Khashoggi's murder.

Bin Salman has denied any knowledge of the killing or its botched cover-up, which Riyadh has described as a "rogue operation".

The kingdom's public prosecutor has charged 11 people over Khashoggi's murder and a secretive trial has been taking place in Riyadh.

Asked how Saudi Arabia was addressing national security issues, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told the audience the Gulf region is "one of the safest worldwide".