Saudi Arabia golf scandal threatens to leak kingdom secrets

Washington (AP) — Officials overseeing Saudi Arabia Tens of Billions of Dollars of U.S. Investment He’s never been shy about flaunting his ties to America’s top business and political figures, like wearing a MAGA cap while swinging a golf club. Alongside former President Donald TrumpHowever, they are silent about many of the details of these relationships.

That’s changing as a result of federal lawsuits in California. Saudi-owned golf tour start-up LIV to face PGA TOURCiting the Kingdom’s practical LIV administration, she said, the judge said that when it comes to new golf leagues, Saudi officials and the Saudi government should be protected from U.S. courts, as sovereign nations usually do. I have found that it is not.

Saudi Arabia has opposed the decision, and the U.S. court claims it has no jurisdiction over the senior official, but the ruling is based on the fact that the PGA Tour’s lawyers said the details of the deal, which the Saudis have kept secret, have been kept secret. This means that you can ask executives about confidential trade secrets.make 2024 presidential candidate trump others.

U.S. District Judge Beth Rabson Freeman found that Saudi Arabia opposed a commercial exception to U.S. law on sovereign immunity.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, appointed to manage the oil-rich Saudi government’s wealth reserve of over $600 billion under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is ‘up to his eyeballs’ in managing golf tours. Rabson Freeman declared that

The findings follow the PGA Tour’s allegations that Al Rumayyan himself recruited LIV players, approved LIV contracts and was otherwise a decision maker and manager for the golf league. Saudi Arabian lawyers counter that Rumayyan’s actions were those of an avid investor, not someone who actually runs a business.

Litigation is important beyond the world of golf. Saudi Arabia has been active in US business investments and political relations and could face court demands for greater transparency and accountability.

Saudi officials’ claims that US courts have little or no say in their actions are particularly sensitive. Last year, the kingdom Legal support from the Biden administrationsuccessfully argued that American courts had no authority to judge prince in lawsuit On the 2018 killing of a US-based journalist Jamal KhashoggiUS intelligence officials concluded that an aide sent by the prince and other Saudi officials killed Khashoggi. The killing created a permanent rift between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed.

Longstanding international law generally protects the leaders and governments of one country from being dragged into the courts of another. Congress opened up commercial activity in his 1976 exception to sovereign immunity.

– The PGA Tour, in Friday’s filing, has reiterated that Saudi Arabia and its sovereign wealth fund under the crown prince will claim sovereign immunity depending on whether it favors various business deals and lawsuits. claimed that there was

Critics and independent legal experts and analysts in Saudi Arabia say the kingdom may be in a tough legal situation.

Donald Baker, an attorney and former head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, “seemed very clear that there was no immunity” from U.S. courts for the operation of the LIV Golf Tour and tournaments. said. Case.

Baker predicted that the case could lead to the federal court for the Northern District of California seeking a deposition of the Saudi royal family. A determination as to whether other Saudi government business deals in the United States have similarly lost immunity from U.S. courts will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Sara Ria Whitson, who runs the Arab world’s current rights group democracy, founded by Khashoggi, said, “If they want to get sovereign immunity from commerce, they can sue people and bring justice to justice.” It means that the system can require the contract to be enforced.” There are laws governing contracts, but no one can impose them on them.No one can hold them accountable.

The Saudi-funded Pro Golf Tour is currently second season And with the slogan “Golf, but louder”, known for its booming music, recording millions of dollars in purses, Relationship with Trump and Hostile relationship with the PGA TourThis year’s trump course is Host 3 LIV Tournamentsin transactions for which financial terms are not disclosed.

The Saudi immunity issue first stemmed from an antitrust lawsuit filed by a LIV player against the long-running PGA Tour. The case has already revealed that the Saudi government’s Sovereign Wealth Fund owns 93% of LIV.

A lawyer for the Saudi side did not respond to an email from The Associated Press requesting comment. A spokeswoman for the LIV referred questions to the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund, which also did not respond to a request for comment.

Under Saudi King Salman’s current eight-year reign, his son Prince Mohammed has made the Kingdom’s Sovereign Wealth Fund a key tool for Saudi investment both at home and abroad. Prince is the chairman of the foundation. Saudi officials say the aim is to diversify the oil-financed economy of the kingdom.

Under Prince Mohammed and fund president Al Rumayyan, the fund has invested more than $30 billion in Uber, Meta, luxury electric car brands, Tesla rival Lucid, PayPal, Costco and other publicly traded US companies. doing.

Funds also integrated saudi ties He took advantage of Trump’s golf courses and channeled $2 billion into the investment firm of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Rumayyan serves on Uber’s board of directors. He plays cards and golf.he caused One of Elon Musk’s biggest tweet storms Musk later testified in a legal case when he tweeted about a possible Saudi sovereign wealth fund deal that would take Tesla private.

Saudi sovereign wealth funds also spend heavily on sports. In addition to founding LIV Golf his Tour, Saudi Arabia acquired the English Premier League’s Newcastle United football team and has been involved in Formula One racing, record-earning horse racing, and other tournaments and matches ranging from snooker to boxing and chess. has been held.

Saudi Arabia has established itself as an energetic, youthful and business-friendly government. Human rights groups hit back with the term “sportwashing”, saying the kingdom under the influence of Crown Prince Mohammed is trying to distance itself from Khashoggi’s murder, the imprisonment of other rights defenders and the failed war in Yemen. Critics in the United States have painted Saudi Arabia’s financial deals with Trump and Kushner as an oil kingdom backing one side of America’s highly partisan politics.

“They’re really trying to rebrand the kingdom… using sports to reach a wider public and tap into some of the passions people have,” says the Baker study. said Christian Ullissen, a fellow in the Middle East at the Institute. in Houston.

In order to finalize the deal to buy Newcastle United, Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has filed a “legal binding mandate” with the authorities that the Kingdom will not be involved in the team’s operations, even though Rumayang is chairing the team. Defenders have argued for a reconsideration of the deal in light of the California federal court ruling, but to no avail.

Critics, and PGA Tour lawyers who filed on Friday, also filed a complaint against Saudi Arabia who served as intelligence chief under the former king when Saudi Arabia filed government documents in another US lawsuit. claims to have willingly waived its sovereign immunity. The United States intervened to quell the incident on the grounds that it threatened to reveal national security secrets.

In the golf lawsuit, LIV players and a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, formally called the Public Investment Fund, allege that unfair practices by the PGA have harmed LIV. PGA lawyers say it’s the reputation of Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed that’s scaring the business.


AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.