A US senate committee hearing was informed that Newcastle United’s majority owners have “facilitated and benefited from human rights abuses.”

Following testimony before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) in which it was claimed that the investment vehicle was “directly involved” in human rights violations linked to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Human Rights Watch has called on the US government to look into and regulate Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
According to HRW, Bin Salman “has clearly expressed an interest in extending his influence outside of Saudi Arabia, frequently through high-profile business agreements with sports teams and leagues.” The hearing made no mention of Newcastle United in particular.

“The PIF under MBS has facilitated and benefited from human rights abuses directly linked to the Crown Prince, including the 2017 ‘anti-corruption’ crackdown that involved arbitrary detentions, abusive treatment, and the extortion of property from former and current government officials, prominent businessmen, and rivals within the royal family, as well as the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal K.,” said Joey Shea, the NGO’s Saudi Arabia researcher, to the Senate committee.
“US businesses should conduct extremely thorough due diligence to ensure that sovereign wealth funds that invest in US companies are not promoting human rights abuses,” she continued.


Shea continued, “Over the last several years, the Saudi government has embarked on a vast campaign to rehabilitate its image and deflect from global perception of the Saudi state as a severe and persistent human rights violator, particularly under the de facto leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” Shea went on to speak more generally about PIF’s efforts to improve the image of the Saudi state.


The PIF has made large investments in sportswashing, a campaign to rebrand the nation and divert attention from grave violations of human rights by organizing or supporting events that honor human achievement, such as important sporting tournaments.


HRW claimed that despite numerous letters sent to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF’s leader, he has not responded. Al-Rumayyan is the current leader of the contentious golf merger between the PIF run LIV franchise at the PGA Tour, the chairman of Newcastle, and a former member of the board of directors of Uber.


The Saudi state would not control Newcastle, according to the Premier League, which continues to claim that they “received legally binding assurances” to that effect. However, PIF’s legal arguments in a US court in connection with a matter involving LIV Golf indicated that PIF is connected to the state.

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Shea informed the Senate that, “The league did not specify what these guarantees were or how they would be enforceable. The Public Investment Fund is, observably and clearly, a Saudi state agency, yet the Premier League seems to have conceded to the idea that it is separate from the Saudi state.

According to public disclosures, PIF now holds more than $35 billion in US assets, up from $2.5 billion in 2018.


The PIF’s US subsidiary was sent a subpoena by the Senate before to the hearing about its affiliation with the PGA Tour. The subpoena requests the disclosure of information pertaining to the framework agreement between PIF and the PGA Tour as well as other American investments.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, chair of the PSI, stated that the Saudi Public Investment Fund “cannot have it both ways; if it wants to engage with the United States commercially, it must be subject to United States law and oversight.” “That oversight includes the investigation by this Subcommittee.”


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