Anyone interested in what it looks like to get away with murder should peruse the attendee list for Saudi Arabia's flashy "Davos in the Desert" this month.
Vaporizing into the desert heat is all the righteous alarm that compelled leading financial firms to boycott the event last year out of concern that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, weeks before, had ordered the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Evidence has only further accumulated of Salman's role in the asphyxiation and dismemberment of the journalist who was his critic. But it doesn't seem to matter anymore.
Attending this year's extravaganza are executives of JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, all of them institutions selected to underwrite the kingdom's highly anticipated, partial public offering of its oil company, Aramco, valued $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion.
A slew of Silicon Valley executives have chosen not to attend the conference, but American high-tech is still accepting Saudi investment money.
Money, it seems, talks louder than murder.
Laurence Fink, CEO of the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, will attend. He had this to say on LinkedIn: "Corporate leaders should be having a public dialogue about (the monarchy). Not because everything in Saudi Arabia is perfect — but precisely because everything is not."
That's a very convenient rationale.
SAUDI ARABIA: We are undergoing an unprecedented transformation
The truth is that Saudi Arabia under Salman's leadership has elected to operate very nearly like a pariah state, and there should be consequences.
Brash and ambitious at 34, Salman passes himself off as a reformer, but his regime has waged a cruel, destructive (and unsuccessful) war in Yemen, jailed and tortured dissenters, kidnapped a Lebanese prime minister, and led the boycott of Qatar, a major U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf. Salman allowed, if not ordered, thugs to lure Khashoggi — a Saudi national but an American resident — into one of the kingdom's consulates in Turkey to be killed.
It hasn't helped that the Trump administration has all but looked the other way, despite a CIA assessment that the crown prince likely ordered the assassination. A recent United Nations report found that it is "inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched."
The Saudis have made a show of placing 11 men on trial for the killing, but the proceedings are secret and have dragged on for months. Among the defendants are Salman's personal bodyguard and the alleged ringleader, Maher Mutreb, and the doctor who cut up Khashoggi's body, Salah Tubaigy.
A surreptitious recording of the moments before the killing caught the men discussing dissection with a bone saw. "Joints will be separated. It is no problem," Tubaigy assures.
Still uncharged is Saud al-Qahtani, Salman's top aide, said by the CIA to have supervised the operation.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump operates as if the murder never happened. He lavished praise on Salman at a summit of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market nations. His son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, is slated to attend the Future Investment Initiative Oct. 29-31.
Salman has, in recent reports, made a point of taking "responsibility" for Khashoggi's death because it happened under his watch, while still denying involvement.
That's not good enough. The stain on this future king for such an evil crime must never be allowed to fade.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Saudi money talks louder than murder year after Jamal Khashoggi death