The website for Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative was shut down today after hackers altered an image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to make it appear he was about to behead a kneeling Jamal Khashoggi.
See the hacked image below.
Nicknamed “Davos in the desert,” the summit, set to begin Tuesday in Riyadh, has been racking up an increasing number of last-minute no-shows by former participants from the media and financial worlds. Late last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tweeted that he would no longer take part in the event.
Saudi Arabia’s much-shifted story of what exactly happened inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey that left Washington Post journalist Khashoggi dead and dismembered was challenged yet again today by CNN’s report that a body double wearing the dead man’s clothes was captured on surveillance footage exiting the consulate.
Over the course of the last week, numerous corporate and political participants have withdrawn from the Saudi investment summit, put on by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund. Among the media organizations, executives or employees withdrawing were Bloomberg, CNN, the Financial Times, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, the New York Times and its columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Thrive CEO Arianna Huffington, among others.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund took a minority stake in Deadline and Variety owner PMC earlier this year for a reported $200 million.
Before the summit’s website was taken down today, hackers had planted an altered photo of the prince, known as MBS, dressed in ISIS garb and standing with a bloody sword behind the kneeling Khashoggi. The UK’s Daily Mail captured a screen image of the photo hack before the website was taken down:
Beneath the altered image was the hackers’ message: “For the sake of security of children worldwide, we urge all countries to put sanction [sic] on the Saudi regime. The regime, aligned with the United States, must be kept responsible for its barbaric and inhuman action, such as killing its own citizen Jamal Khashoggi and thousands of innocent people in Yemen. The medieval Saudi regime is one of the sources for #Terrorism_Financing in the world.”
According to the Daily Mail, the hackers also posted a purported list, with email addresses and phone numbers, of “a thousand terrorists and spies of the Saudi Arabia regime who perform malicious activities around the world.” Other media organizations who saw the hacked site report that counters at the top of the screen “purported to show how many civilians have been killed in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria,” listed combatant groups under Saudi control, and videos that appeared to feature prominent Saudi figures under the headline “Shaping the #Terrorism_financing in The World.”