In Brief

Jeff Bezos’s phone ‘hacked by Saudi Arabia’

Personal information was used to blackmail Amazon boss back in February

The Saudi government hacked Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’s phone to gain personal information which was then used to try to blackmail him, his security chief has claimed.

Gavin de Becker was hired by Bezos to find out how his private messages had been leaked to the National Enquirer tabloid.

In February Bezos went public to accuse the National Enquirer’s owner, American Media Inc, of “extortion and blackmail”. In an explosive blog post he claimed AMI had threatened to publish “intimate photos” he allegedly sent to former television anchor Lauren Sanchez unless he said in public that the tabloid’s reporting on him was not politically motivated.

Following a two-month investigation, in an article for The Daily Beast, de Becker claimed “our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, and gained private information”.

He alleged Saudi Arabia has targeted the Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, following the death last year of one of its columnists, Jamal Khashoggi, at its consulate in Istanbul.

The CIA has concluded that Khashoggi’s murder was probably ordered by the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

At the time the Bezos blackmail story broke, the Saudi government flatly denied it had anything to do with the leaking of intimate photos and texts from the world’s richest man.

“That a senior Saudi government minister felt it necessary to deny suggestions that the kingdom had somehow been involved in the publication of the photos by the most notorious supermarket tabloid in America is an indication of how incendiary the Bezos allegations have been” reported The Guardian.

De Becker has said, “as of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details”, and the company has previously said that it acted lawfully in its reporting of Bezos’ personal life.

The Daily Mail reports that “federal prosecutors are said to be reviewing the emails AMI sent to Bezos in an effort to determine whether AMI violated its immunity deal by attempting to blackmail Bezos over his personal photos”.

As part of an agreement to cooperate with the Department of Justice in its ongoing investigation involving US President Donald Trump, AMI secured an immunity deal with attorneys from the Southern District of New York, “but that deal can be revoked if it is discovered that the company has committed an illegal act, such as blackmail or extortion”, says the Daily Mail.

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