Screenshots of the WhatsApp message Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Jeff Bezos including the video file which ‘hacked’ his phone have emerged.
Vice Motherboard published the images on Wednesday after obtaining them from the cyber security firm report into Bezos’ phone.
The firm – FTI Consulting – had been asked to look at the Amazon founder’s devices after a National Enquirer expose about his relationship with Lauren Sanchez.
They discovered the messages from bin Salman including one which they say likely led to a trove of data being taken from his phone. It was sent in May 2018 and showed a Saudi flag and a Swedish flag with Arabic writing across it.
They also found a message from bin Salman to Bezos of a photograph of a woman who the firm said resembled Sanchez. He sent it along with the joke: ‘Arguing with a woman is like reading the software license agreement. In the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.’
The firm noted in its report that this was pertinent because anyone with access to Bezos’ phone would have known about his then secret romance with Lauren and looming divorce from his wife.
‘Our investigation learned of at least 2 instances in which texts sent to Bezos from MBS’ WhatsApp account may reveal awareness of private information that was not known publicly at the time.
‘The first such text was sent on November 8 2018 and contained a single photograph of a woman resembling Lauren Sanchez, with whom Bezos was having a then-secret personal relationship.
‘For context, this was after the relationship would have been obvious to persons with access to private texts, calls, and images on Bezos’ phone, but months before the relationship was known or reported publicly.
‘The photo and cryptic caption were sent precisely during the period Bezos and his wife were exploring divorce,’ the report reads.
They also found it suspicious that in February 2019, after more than three months during which the pair did not speak, Bezos received an unsolicited WhatsApp message from the prince within hours of receiving a briefing from someone about an online campaign by Saudi Arabia against him.
‘The second text that demonstrates an awareness of non-publication information that could have been gained via surveillance of Bezos’ phone was sent after more than three months of no communication.
‘Bezos was provided a detailed briefing about the extent of the Saudi online campaign against him. The briefing was provided in 2 calls on his phone.
‘This text evinces an awareness of what Bezos had just been told.’
The message contained a photograph of a woman who closely resembled Sanchez, the Times reports.
September 2017: David Pecker, the publisher of AMI, reportedly meets Mohammed bin Salman
April 2018: The crown prince attends a dinner in Hollywood hosted by producer Brian Grazer where he meets Jeff Bezos
May 1: The video is sent from the prince’s phone to Bezos’ via WhatsApp
October 2018: Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is murdered by Saudi regime
November 2018: Bin Salman sends Bezos a text with the photo of the woman resembling Sanchez
January 2019: The National Enquirer publishes its expose on Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez
February 2019: Bezos receives a report that Saudi Arabia has been conducting an online campaign against him.
Within hours of getting that phone call, bin Salman – who he has not spoken to for three months – WhatsApped him out of the blue to say there was no attack against him.
March 2019: Bezos’ private investigator Gavin De Becker says he has proof Saudi Arabia hacked Bezos’ phone – Saudi Arabia denies it
January 2020: The Guardian reports that the prince’s message was the source of the hack. A UN report comes to the same conclusion
Along with it, the prince included a joke: It is unclear if Bezos replied.
At the time, the National Enquirer had been trailing him and Lauren and were aware of their romance.
Bezos’ team has suggested in the past that the Saudi government and The Enquirer’s publisher, David Pecker, were in cahoots to take him down – a claim both the Saudis and Pecker vehemently deny.
Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi – a columnist for Bezos’ newspaper, The Washington Post – had also been murdered at the hands of the country’s regime.
After the text with the joke, bin Salman sent Bezos one more WhatsApp message, according to The New York Times. That text was in February last year and was after Bezos’ divorce and affair with Sanchez made global news.
It said: ‘There is nothing against you or Amazon from me or Saudi Arabia.’
Again, it not known if Bezos replied.
Saudi Arabia has called the allegations that it hacked the billionaire’s phone ‘absurd’ and ‘silly’.
American Media Inc, the Enquirer’s publisher, has also denied any wrongdoing in its reporting of the Bezos/Sanchez affair.
Bezos issued strongly worded statements after the story emerged alleging blackmail by AMI to quash the story.
In the end, he and his wife MacKenzie settled their divorce for a record-setting $36billion.
His net worth is now an estimated $115.6 billion.
UN investigators David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said that he and Agnès Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial murders, were preparing a statement due to be released on Wednesday over the ‘very serious hacking allegations’.
‘The alleged hacking of Mr Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities,’ UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said in a statement.
The FBI is now said to also be investigating the hack at the behest of the UN
Kaye and Callamard say they are ‘gravely concerned’ about ‘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.’
They added: ‘The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.
‘These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the crown prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
‘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.’