Saudi Arabia has given the children of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi million-dollar houses in the kingdom and monthly five-figure payments, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. He was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The development, if true, comes ahead of an imminent trial of the 11 operatives who have been charged for the murder.

The payments, officials told the daily, are “blood money” to convince Khashoggi’s family to avoid criticising the Saudi government when speaking about his murder. Khashoggi’s two sons and daughters either declined to comment or were unreachable, The Washington Post said.

An unidentified Saudi official, however, said the payments are consistent with the kingdom’s custom to provide financial support to victims of violent crime. The official refuted queries about the money being used to ensure the family’s silence on the matter. “Such support is part of our custom and culture,” the daily quoted the official as saying. “It is not attached to anything else.”

In February, The New York Times reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a top aide in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on the self-exiled journalist if he did not return to the kingdom and stop criticising the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied Salman’s involvement in the murder, and in December 2018, condemned a United States Senate resolution accusing him of ordering the killing of the journalist. They have blamed the murder on a group of rogue Saudi officials. The crown prince is the next in line to the Saudi throne after his ailing father King Salman, and has become the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the matter “is being swept under the carpet by the Saudi authorities and foreign governments for the sake of security cooperation, lucrative business ties and arms deals”.