A pair of United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States into information that suggests that Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos‘ phone was hacked after he receved a file sent from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s WhatsApp account.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on enforced disappearances, and David Kaye, a UN envoy on freedom of expression issues, say information collected suggested that the Mr Bezos’ phone was hacked months before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist critical of Prince Mohammed.
But a large body of evidence suggests the information collected was later used to expose an affair Mr Bezos was having unless he ordered the newspaper to town down its coverage of the 2018 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
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“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,” said a statement by the two.
”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.”
Mr Bezos and Prince Mohammed struck up a connection in the months before the Khashoggi killing, with Amazon considering an expansion to the kingdom. The Guardian first reported that allegations that Prince Mohammed’s personal phone was used to send a sophisticated piece of Israeli malware called Pegasus that gives access to a phone’s data.
Once the Khashoggi matter erupted, Saudi officials and Prince Mohammed’s army of online trolls vehemently attacked the Washington Post and Mr Bezos for its aggressive coverage of the kidnapping, torture, murder, dismemberment and disappearance of the dissident writer.
The National Enquirer, a US gossip tabloid which appeared to have a financial ties to the kingdom, threatened to expose an affair Mr Bezos was having unless he ordered the Washington Post to change its coverage. Mr Bezos instead went public, exposing the entire matter, and hired private investigators to find out how his communications were breached.
Ms Callamard and Mr Kaye have been pushing international players for months to take up a more aggressive stance towards Prince Mohammed. Allegations that the Crown Prince, or MBS, as he is often described, personally took part in the hacking of Mr Bezos phone stunned many.
“I was going to say this is [expletive] insane,” wrote Karen Attiyah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, on Twitter. ”But it’s not. This is MBS being drunk and high on impunity. He’s never been held accountable for any single [expletive] thing, ever.”