Vicky Ward Investigates
Vicky Ward Investigates: The Podcast
Saudi-Owned LIV Golf Has Put Millions into Trump’s Pockets

Paid episode

The full episode is only available to paid subscribers of Vicky Ward Investigates

Saudi-Owned LIV Golf Has Put Millions into Trump’s Pockets

Why this and other western sports investments by authoritarians should be a big red flag

Vicky Ward Investigates is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Here’s why we should all care about this little report in a nonprofit publication founded by slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi: It reveals that the LIV Golf tour is 93 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That means that MBS has been effectively using his corporate cover to pay who knows how much to Donald Trump’s golf businesses.

Trump has now hosted two LIV events at his golf clubs. What we should be asking is: Given the preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia by the Trump Administration and the allegations of self-dealing by Jared Kushner, was there a quid pro quo with Trump?

Sports ownership, increasingly, is a great way for authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia to win influence over Western countries under the guise of something apparently popular and harmless.

But just how desperate those regimes can be to curry favor in the West was revealed on Friday in a British newspaper report about British academic Matthew Hedges.

I interviewed Hedges in November about the World Cup. Readers may recall that he specializes in the Middle East. In 2018, Hedges was pursuing a doctorate in the security of the United Arab Emirates (Saudi Arabia’s ally and neighbor), when he was detained in the UAE, imprisoned, and tortured in solitary confinement for six months. He was forced to sign a confession document in Arabic, saying he worked for MI6. (He has since said, as has Britain’s Foreign Office, that he did not and does not work for British Intelligence.) Hedges says he only signed the document because he hoped it would secure his release.

In 2021, via the UK foreign office, Hedges sued four UAE officials he alleges were complicit in falsely imprisoning and torturing him. Six months ago, Hedges testified to the UN’s Committee on Torture. The UAE handed the UN a dossier, claiming it showed photographs from CCTV proving Hedges was not treated inhumanely—because it showed him on a bed, reading a book, and talking to a doctor. The dossier also contained sensitive private information about Hedges and his family. It was not made public.

Then, in November, Hedges came to Washington to talk privately to think tanks in DC about his new research on the UAE’s increasingly close alliance with Russia throughout the war in Ukraine.

Here’s our Q&A about what happened next.

You can listen to the interview at the link above or read a transcript of the full interview:

Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to Vicky Ward Investigates to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.

Vicky Ward Investigates
Vicky Ward Investigates: The Podcast
The inside information that gets you behind the headlines