Fife arms firm fails to boycott Saudi summit over journalist murder

A US arms giant backed by the Scottish Government attended a business summit in Saudi Arabia despite an international boycott and ministers halting a business drive in Riyadh.

Executives from multinational, Raytheon, which has a plant in Fife making laser guidance systems for so-called smart bombs, went to the summit despite many other business leaders calling off after the shocking murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

There was global outrage after the Saudi regime were accused of sending a hit squad to Turkey, where Khashoggi was tortured and murdered.

The Ferret reported how the Scottish Government scrapped plans to recruit a Saudi trade specialist in the wake of the killing. But Raytheon, which has been given financial support by Scottish ministers, attended the major event in Riyadh from 23-25 October, called the Future Investment Initiative.

Saudi Arabia trade plan dropped by Scottish Government after killing of journalist

The company, which helps arm the Saudi regime, was at the three-day event last week where deals worth billions of pounds were sealed despite many staying away. UK International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, was absent and the Department for International Trade confirmed no UK officials would attend.

Sir Richard Branson has halted talks over a £756 million Saudi investment in his Virgin company. But while some big names boycotted “Davos in the desert”, hundreds still attended – in some cases representing the very companies whose bosses decided not to attend.

Raytheon CEO, Thomas Kennedy, was due to speak at the event but, the company said, did not attend. Raytheon has received taxpayers’ money in the form of Scottish Enterprise grants and the firm has been allowed to draft lessons for Scottish pupils.

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The firm, which employs 700 people in Fife and enjoys privileged access to both the Scottish and UK governments, established a new company in Saudi Arabia in May 2018, signing a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on defence projects.

Scottish Greens international relations spokesperson, Ross Greer MSP, said: “It’s time for the Scottish Government to match rhetoric with action and stop handing public cash to Saudi’s compliant arms dealer.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie MSP, said: “The public are rightly disgusted at Saudi Arabia in the wake of the Khashoggi murder. Raytheon should consider these concerns and make clear whether they intend to carry on engaging with Saudi Arabia in the future.”

Raytheon’s smart bombs made in Scotland have been linked to alleged war crimes by the Saudis, who are part of an Arab coalition fighting Houthis in Yemen. UK Government statistics show that since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, the UK has licensed £4.7 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia.

This story was amended on 1 November 2018 to include Raytheon saying that Thomas Kennedy did not attend the summit, and to cut Ross Greer’s comments.

Photo thanks to Alisdare Hickson via CC BY-SA 2.0. A version of this story was published by the Sunday Post on 28 October 2018.

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