IMF chief Lagarde cancels attendance at Saudi conference

IMF chief Lagarde cancels attendance at Saudi conference
IMF head Christine Lagarde has postponed a planned trip to the Middle East, which included her attendance at a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia.
3 min read
17 October, 2018
Lagarde will not be attending the Saudi investment conference [Getty]

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cancelled her planned trip to the Middle East, which included a stop in Saudi Arabia - a country under the spotlight following the suspected murder of a journalist at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

Christine Lagarde has been under pressure to cancel her attendance at a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia later this month, after suspicion over the suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi fell on Riyadh.

The IMF said its managing director was not attending the conference in Riyadh - dubbed "Davos in the Desert" - a brainchild of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"The Managing Director's previously scheduled trip to the Middle East region is being deferred," an IMF spokesman said in a statement.

Lagarde has already criticised Saudi Arabia over the case, but said that although she was duty-bound to attend the conference, she pledged to voice her criticism to the kingdom's leadership at apparent human rights abuses. 

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that a suspect in the alleged killing was linked to the crown prince.

It has been alleged that Khashoggi was tortured before being murdered by Saudi agents at the Istanbul consulate.

Lagarde is the latest figure to suspend her involvement in the Riyadh conference following the disappearance of Khashoggi.

JP Morgan, Virgin chief Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi - and media sponsors like Bloomberg and CNN - have all pulled out of the summit.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum - which holds its summits in Davos, Switzerland - has rejected the unofficial "Davos in the Desert" title, which it says has "generated a great deal of misunderstanding".

The boycott of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh will be a huge embarrassment for Prince Mohammed, who has tried to model himself as a reformer and encourage outside investment into Saudi Arabia.

The trail leading to Riyadh into the investigation of Khashoggi's suspected murder has also tarnished the reputation of the crown prince, who has established strong support in the west for his economic reform programme.

Among those shunning the Riyadh conference, according to official confirmations or reports by Bloomberg News and CNBC among others:


  • HSBC chief executive John Flint
  • Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam
  • MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga

HSBC, Credit Suisse and MasterCard are listed among the eight "strategic partners" of the conference. Another is Siemens, whose boss Joe Kaeser is reportedly still coming.

  • JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon 
  • BlackRock chief Larry Fink
  • Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman
  • Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters

Industry / Technology

  • Ford chairman Bill Ford 
  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi 
  • British billionaire Richard Branson 
  • Thrive CEO Ariana Huffington 
  • Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene


  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish