Downing Street blocks release of messages about Newcastle takeover, Daily Mail claims
No 10 have refused to release the messages
Boris Johnson's office have refused to release messages sent by the prime minister relating to Newcastle United's controversial Saudi-backed takeover.
Newcastle's £305m takeover was finalised in October 2021 after the Saudi Public Investment Fund completed their 80 per cent majority acquisition.
The Daily Mail sent a letter to Downing street asking to see the messages
The cabinet office has admitted that Johnson did communicate with a special advisor when it came to the Newcastle takeover, but the Daily Mail have claimed that despite asking for the correspondence, the cabinet office are refusing to release what the messages said.
Downing Street's response to the publication said that if the messages were revealed, it could undermine the role the United Kingdom plays in the Middle East.
In a letter sent to the Mail, they said: "The Cabinet Office recognises there is a general public interest in openness. We have weighed that interest against a stronger public interest in the United Kingdom being able successfully to pursue our national interests.
"Releasing information which was shared with the UK on a confidential basis could undermine the UK’s role in the Middle East region and elsewhere. If we want to continue to play an influencing role, then our bilateral relationships need to be protected."
The chair of the PIF personally messaged the prime minister
After months of negotiations, the Premier League approved the takeover last year after it was confirmed that that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman - who is accused by US intelligence of approving the operation to capture or kill the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi - would not be subjected to the league's owners' and directors' test, despite being the chairman of the public investment fund.
Bin-Salman messaged the prime minister personally in June 2020 with a warning that any decision to block the Saudi-backed takeover would harm the relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia. As reported by the Mail, he said: "We expect the Premier League to reconsider and correct its wrong conclusion."
While there is no indication as to what the unreleased messages entail, their release is apparently deemed so damaging to relationships that the cabinet office simply refuse to release the information publicly.
It comes after recently leaked images of Newcastle's new away kit for the 2022/23 campaign featured the colours of the Saudi flag as part of the design. But remember, the Premier League has 'legally-binding assurances' that the Saudi state has no influence on the club.
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