Davos in Desert opens amid Kashoggi fallout and a defaced website

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 23, 2018 12:52 hrs
Saudi Arabia

Codenamed as Davos in the Desert, Saudi Arabian policy makers conceptualized this event to focus on non-petro investments and to promote the kingdom as an iconic investment destination.

However, in the aftermath of the murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi there was widespread confusion on whether the event would continue. With dropouts of several key profiles, there were murmurs that the event could be postponed.

On Tuesday, the event was flagged, inspite of several policymakers dropping at the last minute.

Joe Kaeser, the chief executive of German industrial conglomerate Siemens was among the latest of global executives to withdraw from the summit, hosted by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund.

Ministers from the United States, Britain and France, which have huge defence deals at stake with Saudi Arabia, have already pulled out of the summit.

Corporate honchos from JP Morgan to carmaker Ford and ride-hailing app Uber, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg, CNN and the Financial Times have also scrapped plans to attend.

Organisers have taken down a list of speakers from its website and on Monday refused to confirm the number of attendees.

The conference's 2018 iteration has paled in contrast with the inaugural 2017 edition. The glittering Ritz Carlton served as the perfect backdrop for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to woo investors. And he did leave a lasting impression with investors referring to him as a "visionary" for his plans of a futuristic mega-city.

After over two weeks of vehement denials, Saudi Arabia has now admitted Khashoggi was killed in the consulate.

The Investment conference has also been at the center of a hacking attempt, with the forum's website being taken down on Monday over an apparent cyberattack. Hackers defaced the website with a host of critical messages over its alleged role in the war in Yemen and accusing the kingdom of terrorism financing.

Turkey could cast a fresh pall on the already diminished gathering after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to reveal the "naked truth" about the case on Tuesday.

In the past weeks, Turkish media and officials speaking to international media have said audio recordings prove Khashoggi was tortured before being decapitated although no concrete evidence of their existence has emerged.

The conference that was ideated with the vision to lead to better trade relationships is apparently going the other way with several European countries and even institutions such as the IMF.

UK Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund are reported of pulling out of the conference.

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