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Saudi stocks plunge after Donald Trump threatens 'severe punishment' over journalist's disappearance

A Turkish newspaper has reported that officials have an audio recording of the alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Protesters call for clarify following the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Protesters call for clarify following the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Image: Jacquelyn Martin/PA Images

SAUDI ARABIA’S STOCK market plunged by more than 6% on Sunday after Donald Trump threatened “severe punishment” over the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Tadawul exchange in Riyadh dropped on its first day of trading this week, with 182 of its 186 listed stocks showing losses by the early afternoon.

Turkish officials say they fear Saudi agents killed and dismembered Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

They claim to have an audio recording of the alleged killing from the Apple Watch Khashoggi wore when he walked into the consulate, a pro-government Turkish newspaper reported yesterday.

The kingdom has called the allegations “baseless”, but has offered no evidence the writer ever left the consulate.

In an interview to be aired Sunday, Trump told CBS show ’60 Minutes’ that the consequences of Saudi Arabia being involved would be “severe.”

“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we’re going to have to see,” Trump said.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

However, Trump said in the same interview: “As of this moment, they deny it and they deny it vehemently. Could it be them? Yes.”

Interest rates

Saudi officials had no immediate comment on the selloff, although state television aired an interview with an analyst who blamed it on weaker markets in the US.

However, other stock exchanges in the Middle East saw far less volatility Sunday.

US markets have been rattled by rising interest rates, signs of a slowdown in the global economy and the US-China trade dispute.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment.

But Khashoggi’s disappearance, and suspicions he may have been targeted over his criticism of the crown prince, have led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of an upcoming high-profile investment conference in Riyadh.

Trump also said “we would be punishing ourselves” by cancelling arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which his administration touted on his first overseas trip.

The sale is a “tremendous order for our companies”, and if the kingdom doesn’t buy its weaponry from the United States, they will buy it from others, he said.

Trump said he would meet with Khashoggi’s family.

Criticism

American lawmakers in both parties have been more critical of Saudi Arabia, with several suggesting officials in the kingdom could be sanctioned if they were found to be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged killing.

Khashoggi, who was considered close to the Saudi royal family, had become a critic of the current government and Prince Mohammed, the 33-year-old heir apparent who has shown little tolerance for criticism.

As a contributor to the Washington Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticism of its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of the crown prince, who has also presided over a roundup of activists and businessmen.

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Associated Press

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