Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the nephew of arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who rubbed shoulders with former PMs Rajiv Gandhi & Chandra Shekhar.
New Delhi: Saudi Arabia foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir has finally admitted that the death of journalist-critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on 2 October was a “murder”, a “tremendous mistake” and a “rogue operation”.
In an interview with Fox News, he also said the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was beginning to feel some of the pressure that has since accompanied the international outcry.
Al-Jubeir, however, denied that the murder had been ordered by the powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, adding that “we are determined to find all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for his murder”.
As the ripples from Jamal Khashoggi’s death touch all corners of the world, it transpires that the journalist was the nephew of Adnan Khashoggi, the international arms dealer, who was not only the infamous go-between in the Iran Contra arms affair in the mid-1980s, but also friend to godman Chandra Swami and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar.
Certainly, Adnan Khashoggi’s India connection still makes tongues wag, nearly 30 years later.
Adnan Khashoggi’s father was a doctor to the founder of the Saudi monarchy, King Abdul Aziz, while his mother was Turkish. His sister was the mother of billionaire Dodi Fayed, Princess Diana’s lover, who died with her in the Paris car crash in 1997. This made Jamal Khashoggi and Dodi Fayed cousins.
During a much-discussed visit to India in February 1991, a visit that made it to society magazines as well as touched India’s innermost political circles at the time, Adnan Khashoggi touched down in Delhi aboard a private DC-10 jet. From there, he drove straight to the then PM Chandra Shekhar’s rural farmhouse in Bhondsi, now around Gurgaon.
“The reception committee was no less impressive,” said a report in India Today magazine. “He was garlanded by a beaming Kailash Nath Aggarwal (Mamaji), Chandra Swami’s close aide, C.B. Gautam, Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s secretary, and the BJP’s Dr J.K. Jain,” it added.
During that visit, Khashoggi also met former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Adnan Khashoggi’s reach across the Indian and social political spectrum was so large that during that same visit, there was a dinner thrown in his honour by the then BJP national executive member J.K. Jain, whose wife greeted him with a traditional aarti.
The BJP, it was alleged in 1991, was so furious with J.K. Jain for hosting the arms dealer and depriving it of the opportunity to criticise both Rajiv Gandhi and Chandra Shekhar that he was dropped from the BJP national executive soon after.
The guest list at the Khashoggi dinner was pretty impressive. It included everyone from former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah to Subramanian Swamy, now a BJP MP, and former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, the then RSS supremo Nanaji Deshmukh, and industrialists Jayant Malhoutra and Vishnu Hari Dalmia.
BJP leader L.K. Advani was invited, but refused to go. Chandra Swami, it is said, also introduced Miss India Pamela Chaudhary-Singh (later Bordes) to Khashoggi.
In an interview with the UK tabloid Daily Mail later, Pamela was quoted as saying that she and Khashoggi became lovers, and that she spent five days at his huge sprawling estate in Marbella, Spain.
Living the high life
Adnan Khashoggi continued to make waves until his death last year. He was married several times. He owned the largest yacht in the world, ‘The Nabila’, named after his daughter (it was used in the James Bond film, Never Say Never Again), as well as a private jet, and several sprawling landscaped and wonderful houses across the French and Spanish Riviera that were the envy of the rich and famous.
When Khashoggi’s money ran aground, he sold the yacht to the Sultan of Brunei, who in turn sold it to US businessman Donald Trump for $29 million. The yacht was ultimately sold to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a businessman and member of the extended Saudi royal family, allegedly as part of a deal to save Trump’s Taj Mahal casino from bankruptcy.
Cut to the present. As the international ripples from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder continue to unfold, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has halted all arms sales to Riyadh until the troubling questions about the entire affair are answered.
But US President Donald Trump has said he will continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, with the transaction worth an estimated $110 billion.
“It’s a plot gone awry,” Trump said of Jamal’s death, likening it to the battle that he and the Republican party fought to confirm the appointment of Justice Brent Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.
Jamal’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz has now said that she will visit Washington DC to meet Trump if he supports an independent inquiry into Jamal’s death.
The ripples from Jamal Khashoggi’s death are refusing to die down. Media reports now say the Saudi royals employed hundreds of people in “troll farms” to silence dissidents.
According to a report in The New York Times, some of the efforts were dictated by none other than crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has otherwise tried to project himself as the face of an evolving, more liberal Saudi society.