LONDON: Newcastle United and the Premier League should put moral values ahead of the financial rewards from a proposed £300 million Saudi-backed takeover, the fiancee of murdered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi said on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will reportedly take an 80% stake in Newcastle should the takeover be approved by the Premier League.
The mooted deal comes against the backdrop of the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and US resident who was killed in 2018 while at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork ahead of his wedding to Hatice Cengiz.
Turkish officials say a 15-man Saudi squad strangled Khashoggi and cut his body into pieces. His remains were never found.
Cengiz has already called for the Premier League to block the Newcastle takeover and now she has questioned the morality of top-flight chiefs and the Tyneside club.
“Moral values should prevail,” Cengiz told the BBC on Sunday.
“My message would be to the management of Newcastle United and to the decision makers.
“We should consider ethical values, not just financial or political ones. Money cannot buy everything in the world. So the message that will be given to people like Crown Prince is extremely important.
“There should be no place in English football for those credibly accused of atrocities and murder.”
A Saudi court in December sentenced five people to death over the killing, handing three others long jail sentences and acquitting the remaining three charged in the case.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned the outcome as a “whitewash”.
The two top figures investigated over the killing — both part of the crown prince’s inner circle — were exonerated.
Both the CIA and a United Nations special envoy have directly linked the crown prince to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
“We don’t want this deal to go ahead. We are not just talking about the murder of a human being but the efforts to keep all hopes regarding the future, to keep human rights alive, to support justice and to start a transformation in the Middle East,” Cengiz said.
“This deal seems to be about buying something. But there is a wider picture. Saudi Arabia shows the world its face of reform.
“But it has another face where the reality is far from what is shown to the world. This is why we want this (deal) to be stopped and not be completed.”
The Premier League must determine whether the bid fulfils its owners and directors’ test.
Oliver Dowden, the UK culture secretary, told a meeting of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee last week it was a “matter for the Premier League” rather than government.