Despite Killing, SoftBank Chief Sees ‘Responsibility’ to Invest in Saudi Arabia

Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank Group of Japan, said he would continue to do business with Saudi Arabia despite denouncing the killing of a journalist in a Saudi consulate as a “horrible” event.

The remarks on Monday were Mr. Son’s first public comments on the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who entered the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and never emerged. Turkey has said Mr. Khashoggi was beaten and tortured before being beheaded and dismembered.

In the wake of those reports, Mr. Son joined Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber in canceling plans to attend an investment conference, the Future Investment Initiative, that was scheduled in late October in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

Mr. Son said he has raised his concerns about Mr. Khashoggi’s killing with Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, and other senior Saudi officials, asking for “further clarity on this tragic case.”

“They said they are taking this very seriously,” Mr. Son said.

But he made it clear that he would not abandon his business interests in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to see those responsible held accountable,” Mr. Son said during a news conference at his company’s earnings presentation in Tokyo. “At the same time, we have also accepted responsibility to the people of Saudi Arabia, an obligation we take quite seriously to help them manage their financial resources and diversify their economy.”

“As horrible as this event was, we cannot turn our backs on the Saudi people, as we work to help them in their continued efforts to reform and modernize their society,” he said.

SoftBank, the Japanese internet, energy and financial conglomerate, is one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest business partners. Mr. Son’s company manages the SoftBank Vision Fund, a technology investment fund that sought $100 billion in investments and received the promise of $45 billion from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

Mr. Son said companies have not refused to accept money from his fund because of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.

He said “there are complicated issues” in the relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia as well as between Japan and Saudi Arabia.

He added that “as a businessman, I believe I should not be involved in the political side of such a case.”

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