UPDATED: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ cellphone was very probably “hacked” in 2018 after he received a video via WhatsApp from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to an investigation reported in British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday.
On Wednesday United Nations experts issued a statement in which they called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States and others regarding the allegations.
The Guardian reported that Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, received the video from the Saudi leader’s personal mobile phone through WhatsApp in 2018. The encrypted message reportedly contained an infected video file. A Bezos-ordered forensic analysis concluded it is “highly probable” that the video prompted Bezos’ phone to start sending unusually large volumes of data, according to the Guardian.
“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,” said the statement by the U.N. experts who have reviewed the forensic analysis commissioned by Bezos.
The Saudi government is denying the allegations.
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“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington said on Twitter. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
The alleged hack took place five months before the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was savagely killed by Saudi government agents last year in the country’s consulate in Istanbul.
A U.N. report last summer said it was inconceivable that the prince, who basically controls all levers of state in Saudi Arabia, did not know of the killing in advance, and recommended an investigation, which is underway. The CIA has concluded that the prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing, according to The New York Times.
Agnès Callamard, the UN official in charge of investigating extrajudicial killings who is leading the UN investigation into Khashoggi’s murder, is among U.N. experts who has reviewed the Bezos-ordered forensic analysis, according to the Guardian report.
Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker in an opinion article published by The Daily Beast in March of last year had previously accused the Saudi government of hacking Bezos’ phone and said Saudi authorities targeted him because he owned The Washington Post from where Khashoggi was voicing his dissent of Saudi leadership. The Post also subsequently reported proactively on Khashoggi’s murder.
Amazon and Bezos’ lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner have declined to comment beyond saying that Bezos is cooperating with continuing investigations, the New York Times said.