UN demands probe into 'Saudi Crown Prince MbS hack' of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone

UN demands probe into 'Saudi Crown Prince MbS hack' of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone
The Amazon CEO's phone was reportedly hacked by a video sent by the Saudi crown prince via WhatsApp.
3 min read
22 January, 2020
Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has been critical of MbS [Getty]
The UN on Wednesday called for an investigation into the alleged hacking by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone via a WhatsApp message.

UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye issued a statement demanding a probe into claims Bezos' phone was hacked after being sent a video from the Saudi crown prince due to his ownership of The Washington Post, a newspaper deemed critical of the Riyadh leadership.

"The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos's phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents," Callamard and Kaye said in a statement.

"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia." 

A UN report added that Bezos was sent a picture message weeks after the murder of Khashoggi, on 8 November 2018, which showed a woman who appeared similar to the one Bezos was reported to be having an affair with.

"Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman," the report read, according to The Daily Beast.

"A single photograph is texted to Mr. Bezos from the Crown Prince's WhatsApp account, along with a sardonic caption. It is an image of a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly."

The statement went on to say this case supports  allegations about the targeting by Riyadh of dissidents and perceived opponents.

This includes the hacking of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's phone, which critics say contributed to his murder of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, who wrote for The Washinton Post.

"The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by US and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul," the report added.

Saudi Arabia 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."

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 nude 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.

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