A federal lawsuit filed in California against LIV, a Saudi-owned start-up golf tour, has revealed that Saudi authorities and the Saudi government were not immune from U.S. courts due to LIV’s hands-on administration. The verdict allows the PGA Tour’s attorneys to question top executives about corporate secrets they have kept private, such as specific partnerships involving 2024 presidential candidate Trump and others. Saudi Arabia is contesting the ruling, asserting that US courts lack jurisdiction to judge its top leaders. International law has long protected governments and leaders of a country from prosecution in the courts of another country, and Congress in 1976 declared economic activities an exception to sovereign immunity. This case has global repercussions as Saudi Arabia has taken an initiative in terms of economic investment and political ties with America; now they may face legal demands for greater openness and responsibility on their part.
On Friday, the PGA Tour revealed that Saudi Arabia and its sovereign fund under Prince Alwaleed have a history of changing their minds regarding sovereign immunity. Donald Baker, a former chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust unit, predicted that this case will ultimately end up in the Northern District of California’s federal court with depositions being taken from Saudi aristocracy. Sarah Leah Whitson is the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, founded by Khashoggi to fight human rights abuses. This issue of immunity between Saudi Arabia and LIV players was revealed in an antitrust lawsuit brought against long-standing PGA Tour by LIV players. Saudi royal wealth fund owns 93% of LIV, and Prince Mohammed and fund governor al Rumayyan have invested more than $30 billion into Uber, Meta, the premium electric car company. According to Saudi officials, their aim is to diversify the kingdom’s oil-based economy.
The Saudi sovereign wealth fund has deepened its connections with President Trump by using Trump golf courses and allocating $2 billion to Jared Kushner’s investment business. The fund is heavily invested in sports, such as Formula One races, record-breaking horse races and other popular games like snooker, boxing and chess. Saudi Arabia presents itself as a youthful, vibrant nation that welcomes businessmen. However, human rights organizations contend the monarchy is trying to distance itself from Khashoggi’s murder, the imprisonment of human rights activists, and the failing Yemen war by distancing itself from these issues. On Friday, opponents and the PGA Tour attorneys who filed the action contend that Saudi Arabia forfeited sovereign immunity when it provided information to another U.S. court in a case involving a former Saudi intelligence official who served under the previous monarch. LIV players and the Saudi sovereign fund believe PGA golf’s unfair tactics are harming LIV. Kristian Ulrichsen is an analyst with Baker Institute Middle East Fellowships.
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