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Mohammed bin Salman's Misk Foundation to be reviewed following scandals

Once crucial in promoting Saudi crown prince's global brand, Misk is now set to be reviewed, according to the Financial Times
A file photo shows a participant walking next to a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh, 14 November 2018 (Reuters)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's flagship charitable foundation is to be reviewed after becoming engulfed in a number of scandals, according to officials who have spoken to the Financial Times.

One Saudi official told the FT that Saudi Arabia's leadership was ordering the review of the Misk Foundation after references were made to the organisation and one of its senior officials in a US justice department lawsuit in November, which targeted two former Twitter employees and a third man accused of spying on Twitter users at the behest of the Saudis. 

Last month, the foundation and its former secretary-general, Bader al-Asaker, were also named alongside Mohammed bin Salman in a lawsuit brought by Saudi dissident and former intelligence official Saad al-Jabri, who claims the crown prince attempted to assassinate him.

Referring to the Misk Foundation, one Saudi official told the FT that the allegations in the lawsuits had "brought scrutiny to something that has done phenomenal things".

“I’m pretty sure the crown prince was furious that this jewel was linked to this.”

The official said the review was ongoing - neither Misk officials nor the Saudi government responded to the newspaper's requests for comment.

Crucial tool

Founded in 2011, years before he was appointed crown prince, the Misk Foundation has been a crucial tool in Mohammed bin Salman's attempts to increase his influence and improve his brand overseas.

A number of big organisations and businesses previously signed partnerships with Misk, including the United Nations, the Gates Foundation, Bloomberg, Harvard University and General Electric.

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Following the issuing of the US Department of Justice lawsuit in November - which refers to both Misk and its former secretary-general Asaker, but not by name - questions have been raised about the foundation.

The lawsuit alleges that Asaker - referred to as Foreign Official-1 in the suit - had interactions with the two former Twitter employees accused of spying and that he had provided “gifts, cash payments and promises of future employment in exchange for non-public information about Twitter users”.

Jabri filed his lawsuit against bin Salman in August, accusing the crown prince of ordering a hit squad to assassinate him on US and Canadian soil.

A US judge responded to the suit and issued a summons for MBS to appear in court.

Jabri, who is characterised in the legal filing as a "trusted partner of US intelligence officials", claims the crown prince dispatched a 50-person kill team dubbed "the Tiger Squad" in October 2018 - just two weeks after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He also asserts that Misk conspired with Asaker and bin Salman to “covertly recruit individuals to serve as agents and who participated in the hunt” for Jabri in the US.

Misk's ties to the crown prince caused both the Gates Foundation and Harvard to break off links with the organisation in the wake of the Kashoggi killing.

In June, Asaker’s whereabouts were called into question by Saudi activists, who noted that his social media accounts had fallen quiet.

Soon after, activity on his Twitter account resumed. However, sources have told Middle East Eye that Asaker has been detained.

Details surrounding his apparent arrest remain unclear.