Treasury Secretary Mnuchin 'planning on going' to Saudi event despite journalist's disappearance

  • Several media companies and top executives have announced they are pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh on Oct. 23-25.
  • It comes after allegations were made about the kingdom's connection to Khashoggi's disappearance after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
  • "We are concerned about what is the status of Mr Khashoggi … (But) I am planning on going at this point," Mnuchin tells CNBC's Geoff Cutmore.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still plans to attend a Saudi investment conference later this month, despite growing outrage over the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Several top executives and media companies, including CNBC, have announced they are pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, scheduled for Oct. 23-25. It comes after allegations were made about the kingdom's connection to Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Turkish authorities claim Saudi agents killed Khashoggi, whose columns in The Washington Post have been critical of the Saudi government.

Riyadh has denied killing Khashoggi, insisting he left the consulate shortly after he arrived.

"We are concerned about what is the status of Mr Khashoggi ," Mnuchin told CNBC's Geoff Cutmore on Friday. "If more information comes out and changes, we could look at that, but I am planning on going."

'Let's wait and see'

The conference, often referred to as "Davos in the desert," has attracted some of the world's business elite, including top bosses and executives from media, tech and financial services.

However, the news of Khashoggi's disappearance has since prompted several attendees to withdraw from the FII conference this year.

Economist Editor-In-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes and media sponsor The New York Times are among those who have said they will not attend the conference, Reuters reported Friday.

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014.
Mohammed al-Shaikh | AFP | Getty Images
Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014.

British billionaire Richard Branson said Thursday his Virgin Group will suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group's space ventures.

When asked what advice he would give to other executives debating whether to attend the three-day conference, Mnuchin replied: "We all want information, so let's wait and see what information comes out in the next week."