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Investigator says Amazon chief’s phone was hacked by Saudis

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Riyadh was angered by Washington Post's coverage of Khashoggi murder, says investigator

WASHINGTON: The investigator hired to look into the release of intimate images of Mr Jeff Bezos said on Saturday that he has concluded that Saudi Arabian authorities hacked the Amazon chief's phone to access his personal data.

Mr Gavin de Becker linked the hack to extensive coverage by The Washington Post newspaper, which is owned by Mr Bezos, of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul last year.

"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Mr Bezos' phone, and gained private information," Mr de Becker wrote on The Daily Beast website.

He said that while the brother of Mr Bezos's mistress was paid by the National Enquirer scandal sheet for the release of the information, his role may have been a red herring, and the plot went far beyond one man seeking to cash in.

"It's clear that MBS considers The Washington Post to be a major enemy," Mr de Becker wrote, referring to the oil-rich kingdom's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), named as responsible for the murder.

But Mr de Becker did not specify which part of the Saudi government he was blaming for the hack, and gave few details about the investigation that led him to the conclusion that the kingdom was responsible.

The results, he wrote, "have been turned over to federal officials". Mr Bezos hired Gavin de Becker & Associates to find out how his intimate text messages and photos made their way into the hands of the Enquirer, which reported on the Amazon chief's extramarital affair, leading to his divorce.

Mr Bezos has accused Enquirer publisher American Media Inc (AMI), led by Mr David Pecker, of "blackmail" for threatening to publish the intimate photos if he did not halt the investigation.

The Amazon chief declined to do so, instead publishing copies of e-mails from AMI.

Saudi Arabia has stressed that the Crown Prince was not involved in the killing of Mr Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist. Riyadh initially said it had no knowledge of his fate, but later blamed the murder on rogue agents.


In a separate development, members of the Saudi team that killed Mr Khashoggi received training in the US, the Washington Post has reported.

According to columnist David Ignatius, who said he interviewed more than a dozen American and Saudi sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, some members of the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group received training in the United States.

"The CIA has cautioned other government agencies that some of this special-operations training might have been conducted by Tier 1 Group, an Arkansas-based company, under a State Department license," he said.

"The training occurred before the Khashoggi incident, as part of ongoing liaison with the Saudis, and it hasn't been resumed." - AFP