Tycoon Richard Branson has halted negotiations with the Saudi government's Sovereign Wealth Fund about planned multimillion dollar investments in Virgin's space program, The Financial Times reported Thursday.
According to the media outlet, Branson has also suspended talks about two large-scale tourism projects planned by Riyadh along the Red Sea as a crisis builds over the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The head of the UK-based international company Virgin Group told The Guardian that he had had "high hopes for the current government in the kingdom and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman." However, if reports alleging the murder of the Washington Post columnist proved to be true, it "would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government," Branson said.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, disappeared last week after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain wedding papers.
Turkish authorities reportedly believe Khashoggi was murdered by a team of 15 Saudi security operatives, who dismembered his body and smuggled the remains out of the compound. The Saudis claim the journalist left the consulate shortly after entering and then vanished.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu promised Thursday to make public the results of an inquiry into the mystery surrounding Khashoggi. Cavusoglu said Turkish prosecutors were conducting a full-scale probe with the help of intelligence, police and security forces, and were cooperating closely with the Saudi mission, since the incident is thought to have occurred within its walls.
US media reports have said that the US intelligence community intercepted communications indicating that bin Salman ordered an operation to lure Khashoggi back to his home country from Virginia, where he has been living.