(CNN)Milan's renowned La Scala opera house will give back 3 million euros ($3.4m) of Saudi money, after rejecting a controversial deal that would have given the Kingdom's culture minister a seat on the board.
La Scala opera house to return Saudi money after outcry
The Italian theater had negotiated an agreement which would have seen it receive 15 million euros from Saudi Arabia over five years, its director Alexander Pereira told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper earlier this month.
But news of the deal sparked a furious backlash, with politicians and art critics demanding the opera house shun funding from the Gulf nation over its human rights record.
La Scala confirmed on Monday that the plan would not go ahead, after it was rejected at a board meeting, adding that the initial 3 million euro payment had been made without the opera house's approval.
But La Scala did not rule out doing future business with the Kingdom, and said it still planned to tour the country in 2020.
Saudi Arabia has been under intense international scrutiny since journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at its consulate in Istanbul last year. The CIA concluded Khashoggi's death was personally ordered by its Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, according to sources close to the matter. Riyadh denies involvement, claiming it was a rogue operation.
"On 4 March (Saudi culture secretary) Prince Badr al Saud made a payment that did not comply with the procedures set forth in the Statute for the competition to the Foundation," a spokesperson for La Scala said in a statement. "The council approved the return of the sum."
"As a result, there is no path available today for joining the Board of Directors," they added. "The Board of Directors remains open to considering new collaborative projects to be formulated in accordance with the procedures."
La Scala is regarded as one of the greatest opera houses in the world, but senior figures at the theater -- including Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is also the head of La Scala's board -- faced heavy criticism over the deal when it was revealed.