Investigator says Amazon chief's phone hacked by Saudis

Investigator says Amazon chief's phone hacked by Saudis
Riyadh allegedly hacked the phone of Jeff Bezos, Amazon chief and owner of he Washington Post, which has been highly critical of the kingdom since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
3 min read
31 March, 2019
Bezos hired investigators to find out how his intimate messages and photos were leaked [Getty]

The investigator hired to look into the release of intimate images of Jeff Bezos said on Saturday he has concluded that Saudi Arabian authorities hacked the Amazon chief's phone to access his personal data.

Gavin de Becker linked the hack to extensive coverage by The Washington Post newspaper, which is owned by Bezos, of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.

"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.

He said that while the brother of Bezos's mistress was paid by the National Enquirer scandal sheet for the release of the information, his role may have been a red herring, and the plot went far beyond one man seeking to cash in.

"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.

But de Becker did not specify which part of the Saudi government he was blaming for the hack, and gave few details about the investigation that led him to the conclusion that the kingdom was responsible.

The results, he wrote, "have been turned over to federal officials."

Bezos hired Gavin de Becker & Associates to find out how his intimate text messages and photos made their way into the hands of the Enquirer, which reported on the Amazon chief's extramarital affair, leading to his divorce.

Bezos has accused Enquirer publisher American Media Inc, led by David Pecker, of "blackmail" for threatening to publish the intimate photos if he did not halt the investigation.

Bezos in his blog alluded to Saudi Arabia’s displeasure at the Washington Post’s coverage of the murder of its late columnist Jamal Khashoggi and referenced 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.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir 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,” Adel al-Jubeir told CBS’ Face the Nation when asked if Riyadh was involved in The National Enquirerleaks.

"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.

Killing of Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia has stressed that the crown prince was not involved in the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist who was murdered inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October.

The kingdom has since blamed rogue agents for Khashoggi's death and the kingdom's public prosecutor has 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 equipped to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Bandar al-Aiban, the head of a Saudi delegation, speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva insisted that his country was taking all the "measures required for us to resolve this heinous crime".

Interpol issued a red notice on the same day for 20 Saudi suspects in the murder of US-based Khashoggi upon Turkey's request. This makes the members of the execution team liable to arrest around the world.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has faced international scrutiny after the murder of Khashoggi. Dozens of Saudi women activists are imprisoned for their human rights work and have faced torture and sexual harassment in prison.

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