Investor and Trump friend Tom Barrack not going to Saudi conference

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Billionaire investor and one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies Tom Barrack will not be attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia, CNBC has learned.

Barrack will no longer be attending as his speaking session was cancelled by the conference hosts after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulled out of attending on Thursday, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Mnuchin and Barrack were slated to be on a panel together next Tuesday in Riyadh.

Barrack is the latest prominent business figure who have dropped out of taking part in the conference, also known as “Davos in the Desert,” following the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

A spokesman for Barrack declined to comment.

Barrack, a Lebanese American, became close to the president and his operation during the 2016 presidential election. He was one of the lead business figures who helped raise funds for then-candidate Trump and later introduced him to his previous campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Barrack later served as chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee

Barrack himself has strong business ties to the Middle East. He reportedly has $200 million invested into the region. His real estate investment firm, Colony Capital, manages at least $34 billion in assets, including $18 billion in over 16 commercial real estate and distressed debt-focused funds.

With his Middle East business expertise, he’s worked to better the relationship between the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

His absence from the conference comes as the United States and Saudi Arabia are mired in a controversy about the whereabouts of Khashoggi. The uproar compelled leaders at top Wall Street banks such as Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink to walk away from taking part in the event.

Reports indicate that Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by government agents. The Saudi government has denied wrongdoing. Trump has urged waiting until the evidence comes in to make a decision, but has said there would be severe consequences if it was indeed a murder