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Google Cloud chief joins Saudi shindig exodus over journalist's worrying disappearance

Jamal Khashoggi: Oil-rich state is blushing but Western leaders aren't saying much

Google Cloud's gros fromage, Diane Greene, has pulled out of a Saudi Arabian summit following the disappearance of a writer who criticised the Saudi regime from the country's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkish officials have alleged that Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate.

Greene, chief exec of Google Cloud, was due to appear at the so-called Davos in the Desert shindig organised by the Middle Eastern kingdom, which is desperate to attract big business in order to diversify its oil-dominated economy.

Since the disappearance and suspected murder of Khashoggi, an exile last seen alive entering the Saudi embassy in Turkey's capital, however, Western business interests have begun withdrawing from the Future Investment Initiative.

Khashoggi was a columnist for the US Washington Post newspaper, which reacted to his demise by publishing articles under the headlines "Who needs Saudi Arabia?" and "Has [crown prince and de facto ruler] Mohammed bin Salman finally gone too far?" (no links are available at the time of writing because the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper responded to the EU GDPR by blocking all EU-based readers with a hard paywall).

Greene has joined a list of execs that includes Richard Branson, Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi, Android creator Andy Rubin, and a handful of less-well-known names.

A Google spokesman would only tell us: "We can confirm Diane Greene will not be attending the FII Summit."

Though Turkey initially spread a rumour that Khashoggi's killing was recorded by his smartwatch, it appears more likely that the country had already bugged the embassy. Several pundits have suggested the "smartwatch recordings" were a cover story to explain why Turkey was so certain that the man had been killed by Saudi assassins.

Various media sponsors of the Saudi conference have also pulled out, notably the UK's Financial Times and the American New York Times.

While US president Donald Trump has suggested that "rogue killers" were to blame - implicitly absolving Saudi authorities - the British state has made no public pronouncement. The British defence industry has very close ties to Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems in particular books large amounts of revenue from Saudi fast jet contracts. ®

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