Skip to main content

Khashoggi killers used planes seized by Saudi crown prince: Report

In recent court filings, documents reveal that two of the jets used by Saudi hit squad belonged to a company seized by MBS months earlier, CNN reports
Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.
Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 (AFP/File photo)

Two private jets used by the Saudi hit squad that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi were owned by a company that had been seized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), CNN reported on Wednesday, citing recently filed court documents.

The documents, filed in a Canadian court as part of a lawsuit against former Saudi spy chief Saad al-Jabri, lays out how the country's $400bn sovereign wealth fund, chaired by MBS, took ownership of Sky Prime Aviation in late 2017 - less than a year before the murder. 

The documents ordering the transfer are labelled "Top Secret" and signed by Mohammed al-Shaikh, one of the fund's board members, according to CNN.

Exiled spy chief says MBS believes he's the CIA's source on Khashoggi murder
Read More »

Shaikh wrote it was important to MBS that the fund take over the companies and that "His Highness is to be kept abreast of what's being done".

According to a report by Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Sky Prime Aviation operates the two Gulfstream corporate jets that flew to and from Istanbul with most of the 15-man hit team.

After Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, the killers made their escape using the planes. One jet, with the tail number HZ-SK1, had landed that evening. Just over an hour after landing, it was back in the air with six members of the Saudi team.

Four and a half hours later, the second plane, with the tail number HZ-SK2, took off from Ataturk Airport in Istanbul with seven more men on board, the report said. The last two members of the hit team, who flew in to Turkey on the private jet HZ-SK2, left for Riyadh via a commercial flight.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2018 that the jets belonged to a company controlled by MBS, citing people familiar with the matter.

Saad al-Jabri lawsuit

The reported connection potentially creates another link between the murder of Khashoggi and MBS. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to Middle East Eye's request for comment.

"He would have been tracking [the company] and would've been aware of how it was used," Dan Hoffman, the former director of the CIA's Middle East Division, said of the crown prince.

"And it's just more potential evidence that he was in the know on this, which has always been the contention. This is just more evidence of that," he told CNN.

The documents establishing the link between the planes and the prince were filed by a group of ten Saudi-state owned companies as part of a lawsuit they filed last month in Canada against former Saudi spy chief Saad al-Jabri.

The civil suit claims Jabri colluded with former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and received $1.2bn in misappropriated funds, with bin Nayef allegedly transferring at least $55m to Jabri in illicit payments. Jabri denies these allegations.

Last year, Jabri filed a lawsuit against MBS in a US court claiming the royal ordered a 50-person kill team dubbed "the Tiger Squad" to kill him in Canada. The incident allegedly took place in October 2018 - just two weeks after Khashoggi's murder.

Sky Prime Aviation had been run by Jabri's son-in-law, Salem al-Muzaini. According to an amended complaint filed by Jabri against MBS in Washington DC, Muzaini was arrested in Dubai in September 2017 and forcibly rendered back to Saudi Arabia.

The Biden administration plans to release an unclassified report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), where US intelligence officials are understood to have concluded that MBS ordered Khashoggi's killing. 

Last week, Jabri claimed that MBS believed he was the source in the intelligence report.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.