Amazon chief Jeff Bezos says Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked his phone

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos says Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked his phone
Jeff Bezos, who claims that it had hacked his phone over The Washington Post's coverage of columnist Jamal Khashoggi's death.
4 min read
22 January, 2020
Bezos once visited the Kingdom [Getty]
Saudi Arabia has denied accusations made by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked his phone, calling it "absurd" despite mounting evidence supporting the US tycoon's claim. 

"Recent media reports suggest the kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd," the Saudi embassy said in a statement.

"We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out."

This comes as two UN officials will report later today that there is enough evidence to suggest that Saudi Arabia had hacked Bezos' phone and both the Riyadh and Washinton should investigate the claims, a person close to the matter told Reuters.

UN officials are expected on Wednesday to publicly back a forensic report commissioned by the Amazon boss' security team that states Bezos' phone was likely hacked when he received an encrypted video sent by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Outside experts consulted by the UN agreed that while the case was not airtight, the evidence was strong enough to warrant a fuller investigation.

It was claimed that the alleged hack was connected to the death of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Tuesday claimed his government had "absolutely nothing to do" with the scandal.

"This is something between the two parties, we have nothing to do with it," Al-Jubeir told CBS’ Face the Nation when asked if Riyadh was involved in The National Enquirerleaks.

What happened?

Bezos founded the online retail platform Amazon, and also owns The Washington Post, the outlet Jamal Khashoggi wrote for before his murder.

Bezos' phone was hacked after he received a Whatsapp message from Mohammed bin Salman's personal account, according to the Guardian.

An investigation into the data breach was launched after Bezos' phone shared large amounts of data after receiving an encrypted video from the prince, a report by The Financial Times found.

This comes after intimate images of Bezos were leaked to an American tabloid called the National Enquirer.

Gavin de Becker, who was investigating the hack concluded that the Saudi authorities had hacked the Amazon CEO's phone.

"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information," de Becker wrote on The Daily Beast website.

The brother of Bezos' mistress leaked photos and intimate text messages to the National Enquirer, but the investigator believes the release of information was nothing more than misdirection, and the hacking goes much deeper than simple greed.

Jeff Bezos with girlfriend news anchor Lauren Sanchez [Getty]

"It's clear that MBS considers The Washington Post to be a major enemy," de Becker wrote, referring to the oil-rich kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the CIA, named as "responsible" for the murder.

De Becker didn't specify which part of the Saudi government he blamed for the hack, but said the results "have been turned over to federal officials".

Bezos hired Gavin de Becker & Associates to find out how his private information had made their way into the hands of the Enquirer, and the Amazon boss accused its publisher American Media Inc. (AMI) of trying to "blackmail" him for threatening to publish the photos if he did not halt the investigation.

Bezos talked about Saudi Arabia on his blog, noting the country’s displeasure at The Washington Post's coverage of the murder of its columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, referencing media reports about alleged links between AMI and Riyadh that may have played a role in the affair.

The Amazon chief declined to halt the investigation, instead publishing copies of emails from AMI.

"It sounds to me like a soap opera," he said, claiming he was not aware of any links between the Saudi government and AMI or its CEO David Pecker.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied accusations that the crown prince engineered the death of Khashoggi, blaming rogue agents instead and the kingdom’s public prosecutor has since charged 11 people over his murder.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia reiterated its rejection of calls for an international, independent investigation into the murder of Khashoggi, insisting it was well Saudi Arabia has denied accusations made by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos that its crown prince hacked his phone, calling it "absurd".

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