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Newcastle takeover: Khashoggi’s fiancée urges Premier League to block Saudi bid

Jamal Khasoggi is believed to have been murdered and then dismembered following an alleged order from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who leads the Public Investment Fund that is on the verge of taking control of the Premier League club

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Wednesday 29 April 2020 08:26 BST
Premier League players launch PlayersTogether initiative during coronavirus crisis

The fiancée of murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has written a letter to the Premier League chief executive Richard Masters expressing her dismay at Newcastle United’s imminent takeover, and has called for officials to step in and block the bid that is being led by the country’s Public Investment Fund.

Hatice Cengiz believes the Premier League will be “tarnished” by allowing a Saudi Arabian consortium including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to take control of one of their clubs, with a letter written by lawyers on her behalf claiming that the move is a blatant attempt at ‘sportswashing’.

The allegation of sportswashing has been levelled at Saudi Arabia over the move to buy Newcastle United, which follows the high-profile staging of the heavyweight boxing fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz and plans to host a Formula One Grand Prix in the near future. Both WWE and Formula E have held events there over the last year too.

Bin Salman heads the Public Investment Fund that is attempting to take an 80 per cent stake in the north-east club as part of a £300m takeover bid, which reportedly just needs to be signed off by the Premier League before going through. 10 per cent would be owned by PCP Capital Partners, the firm being fronted by Amanda Staveley, while the remaining share would be owned by the Reuben brothers, with current owner Mike Ashley leaving the club.

The 2018 murder of journalist Khashoggi has caused a considerable backlash to the takeover plans though, given that United States investigators believe the Crown Prince ordered the murder of him inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish capital of Istanbul - a claim that Bin Salman has denied. Khashoggi had gone to the building seeking papers to marry Ms Cengiz, who was waiting in a car outside, and it’s believed that 59-year-old Khashoggi was murdered and then dismembered. His body has never been found.

In a letter putting further pressure on the Premier League, lawyers for Ms Cengiz claimed they would risk becoming part of the plan to “whitewash” the murder if the Public Investment Fund was allowed to take a controlling stake in Newcastle.

“Ms Cengiz urges you and the board of the Premier League to take all necessary steps to prevent this takeover from happening,” lawyers said in the letter to chief executive Masters.

“It is undoubtedly the right, proper and lawful action for you and the Premier League to take especially in light of the ruthless killing of Ms Cengiz’s fiancé. There should be no place in the Premier League, and English football, for anyone involved in such abhorrent acts. It would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Premier League Chairmen’s Charter and the Rules of the Premier League, and the fundamental and honourable principles upon which they are based.”

The letter also claimed that by turning a blind eye to the actions that surrounded Khashoggi’s murder, the Premier League will become part of the “cover-up” that saw a failure to hold those responsible to account.

“Ms Cengiz wishes to emphasise that it is this wholly disgraced and corrupt reputation that would be associated with the (Premier League) if the Newcastle acquisition were allowed to go ahead,” the letter added.

“The standing of both the (Premier League) and English football in general would be tarnished by your connection with those who commit the most appalling crimes and then seek to whitewash them, and who seek to use English football as a way of improving their image and hiding their transgressions.

“Football cannot be permitted to become another part of the cover-up. The great game of English football, which is so revered the world over, and known for its fairness and highest standards, should not be degraded in this way.”

A Saudi investigation last year sentenced five unnamed defendants to death and imprisoned three others, while separately Turkey has charged 20 suspects over the murder of Khasoggi.

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