Saudi Space Commission set for SR2 billion boost

Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of Saudi Space Commission
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Updated 29 October 2020

Saudi Space Commission set for SR2 billion boost

  • Space business and space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward: Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of Saudi Space Commission

RIYADH: The Kingdom is planning an SR8 billion ($2.1 billion) boost for its space program as part of Vision 2030, said Saudi Space Commission (SSC) Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman.

The commission has finalized a plan for the government, expected to be revealed later this year, under which the sector’s budget would receive an initial boost of SR2 billion.

“In the time where we live now, space is becoming a fundamental sector of the global economy, touching every aspect of our lives on Earth. Space business and space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward,” Prince Sultan said.

The commission was set up by a royal decree in late 2018 to stimulate space-related research and industrial activities.

“We believe there are a lot of opportunities that exist in the space sector and we, in Saudi Arabia, intend to tap these opportunities at all levels,” he added. 

Prince Sultan, who chaired the Saudi Commission on Tourism and Heritage for 18 years, said the Kingdom aspired to become a global player in the space industry while advancing prospects for future generations.

The Saudi space sector’s current return on investment is SR1.81 or every one riyal invested. This compares with a return of between SR7 and SR20 for every riyal invested in the sector in advanced economies, according to SSC data.

SSC plans to sign agreements with international agencies in the US, Russia, China, India and the UAE to boost cooperation, said Prince Sultan, who flew aboard the US Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. He was the first astronaut from an Arab or Muslim country in space.

His duties onboard Discovery as a payload specialist included releasing the Arabsat satellite, which was a breakthrough in connecting the region with the rest of the world.

Saudi Arabia is a main founder and financier of the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat), launched in 1976, with a 37 percent stake.

RCMP officer defends decision over Huawei CFO arrest

Updated 5 min 13 sec ago

RCMP officer defends decision over Huawei CFO arrest

  • Meng Wanzhou was detained in 2018, accused of bank fraud by the US, allegedly misleading HSBC over dealings with Iran

VANCOUVER: A Canadian police officer stationed at Vancouver International Airport who rejected a plan to arrest Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on the plane she arrived on two years ago, testified that at the time he told other officers the best course was to allow border agents to interrogate Meng before arresting her.

The testimony from Ross Lundie, a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Vancouver International Airport detachment, came at the end of two weeks of witness cross-examination in Meng’s US extradition case.

Meng, 48, was arrested on a US warrant on charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies’ business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break US sanctions.

She was arrested at the airport in December 2018 following a three-hour examination by officials with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The interrogation has become a flashpoint in the case to extradite Meng to the US.

Her lawyers allege that Canadian and US authorities conspired to use the additional investigative powers of the CBSA to interrogate Meng without a lawyer present. They further claim that the RCMP passed on identifying details of Meng’s electronic devices to US authorities, in violation of her civil rights.

As evidence, Meng’s lawyers have pointed out that the RCMP could have arrested Meng on the plane but instead chose to allow the CBSA to conduct an investigation first.

Lundie testified on Friday about his phone conversations with officers who had planned to arrest Meng on the plane she arrived on. Lundie said he told police that he did not think it was a good idea and  that the CBSA needed to be informed.

He told the court that problems can arise when police do not respect the authority of other partner agencies, and said the RCMP does not normally make arrests aboard planes “unless there’s fighting or something extreme going on.”

Friday marked the end of the second of three legs of witness testimony during which defense lawyers attempted to show that enough abuses of process took place during Meng’s detainment by Canadian authorities to invalidate the extradition. Witness hearing is to resume on Dec. 7.

Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition while under house arrest in Vancouver.

Prosecutors have argued that Meng’s investigation and arrest followed standard procedures.

On Wednesday the RCMP supervisor in charge of Meng’s arrest testified that she had relayed a suggestion from her superior to arrest Meng on the plane but that she did not think it was a good idea. She also testified that emails she reviewed did not show the RCMP passed serial numbers of Meng’s devices to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Lundie testified Thursday that he had suggested the CBSA conduct its examination of Meng first.

Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing have deteriorated since Meng’s arrest. China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges days later.

Meng’s extradition hearing is expected to wrap up in April 2021.