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Potential Saudi investment in Jared Kushner’s firm sparks ethical questions

November 29, 2021 at 3:04 pm

Former US President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner in Saudi Arabia on 5 January 2021 [Royal Council of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

Ethical concerns have been raised following the revelation that Saudi Arabia could become a potential backer of a new investment firm set up by the son- in- law of former US President Donald, Jared Kushner, according to details uncovered by the New York Times.

Kushner is said to be prowling for investors in the Gulf for his new venture, Affinity Partners. Apparently, the Qataris and the UAE have turned him down, largely because of his poor track record in business.

However, the Saudis are said to have shown interest. The Kingdom’s $450 billion Public Investment Fund is negotiating with Kushner over what could prove to be a sizable investment in his new firm, people briefed on continuing negotiations between the two parties are reported saying.

In the four years he served as White House Advisor during the Trump Presidency, Kushner built a strong rapport with Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed Bin Salman. He played a leading role in the White House in defending Bin Salman after US intelligence agencies concluded that he had directed the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Kushner’s relations with Bin Salman is thought to be paying further dividends for the 40-year-old, with the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia open to investing in the new firm. This has raised questions about the ethics of their ongoing relations, especially if Trump decides to make a comeback in 2024.

“When former White House officials start cashing in their time served with our government by cozying up to monarchs, it turns the stomach a bit. Is it illegal? No,” said Nick Penniman, the founder and Chief Executive of Issue One, a good-government organisation in Washington. “Is it swampy and seemingly hypocritical? Yes.”

READ: Trump son-in-law tried to get $500m loan from Qatar

The Times report commented on what may have been a possible abuse of power by Kushner during his time as Trump’s Advisor on the Middle East. Apparently, Qatari officials feared that they might face retaliation if they rejected Kushner’s invitation to invest in his New York real estate business.

Qatari officials said they suspected that Kushner held the rejection against them when Trump was in office. This suspicion was fuelled also by Trump’s hostile treatment of Qatar in 2017, when he initially backed a UAE and Saudi led blockade on Doha. Trump would later tone down his support, following advice from senior members of his administration.

Kushner’s current negotiations with Saudi Arabia are continuing, four people familiar with the matter said; but no deal has been announced. Kushner is said to be hoping that his new firm will find opportunities in cross-border investing in the Middle East.