IMF chief Lagarde 'horrified' by Saudi journalist's disappearance

IMF chief Lagarde 'horrified' by Saudi journalist's disappearance
Lagarde says she will 'speak her mind' when she attends an economic summit in Riyadh, from which many high profile speakers and sponsors have pulled out over the Khashoggi disappearance
3 min read
13 October, 2018
Christina Lagarde said she was 'horrified' by the Khashoggi reports [Getty]
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Saturday she was "horrified" by reports about the fate of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi but still plans to attend an economic meeting in Riyadh this month.

Riyadh's Future Investment Initiative (FII) has been thrown into crisis after a number of high-profile delegates and sponsors, including the president of the World Bank, pulled out.

As questions mount over the fate of Khashoggi, some big business names and media outlets have pulled out of the Kingdom's second FII.

Khashoggi is a Saudi writer critical of the Saudi crown prince who has not been seen since he walked into the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2. 

Lagarde said her plans were unchanged for now, despite international uproar over the case.

"Human rights, freedom of information are essential rights and horrifying things have been reported and I am horrified," she told reporters in Bali where the IMF is holding annual meetings.

"But I have to conduct the business of the IMF in all corners in the world and with many governments."

"When I visit a country, I always speak my mind... So at this point of time my intention is to not change my plans and to be very attentive to the information that is coming out in the next few days."

However IMF's Middle East chief Jihad Azour told the FT he was "waiting to have more information" on Khashoggi's disappearance to before she confirmed her attendance at the summit.

Lagarde's comments came shortly after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he also still planned to attend the October 23-25 meeting, dubbed "Davos in the Desert". 

"The answer is for now I am" still going, Mnuchin said.

"If more information comes out over the next week, I will obviously take that into account."

"Obviously I want to express concern for Mr. Khashoggi and his family," he added.

"We look forward to getting results of this investigation."

Riyadh on Saturday dismissed accusations that authorities there had ordered Khashoggi be murdered by a hit squad inside its Istanbul consulate as "lies and baseless allegations".

But the row has intensified with the Washington Post reporting that Turkish officials have recordings made from inside the building that allegedly prove their claims Khashoggi was tortured and killed at the consulate.

Bloomberg, the Financial Times, The Economist and The New York Times have withdrawn as media sponsors from the event amid questions about the missing man's fate.

The CEO of ride-hailing app Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, said that he will no longer be attending the event unless "a substantially different set of facts emerges".

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he would suspend two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia over the issue.

Saudi policy-makers are bound to be shaken by the exodus of high-profile attendees from the summit, due to take place on October 23, as the country's ambitious 'Vision 2030' project is heavily reliant on attracting foreign investment.

Amnesty International demanded the Saudi authorities reveal what happened to Khashoggi as it said Riyadh was "responsible at a minimum for enforced disappearance".

Agencies contributed to this report.