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Saudi Arabia denies hacking Jeff Bezos’ phone

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Gulf Cooperation Council's 40th Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 10, 2019. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters

The Saudi Arabian embassy in the United States has denied that the kingdom breached the mobile phone of Amazon (AMZN) owner Jeff Bezos, saying that the reports are “absurd” and calling for an investigation.

According to an investigation by the Guardian newspaper, Bezos’s phone was infiltrated in 2018 via a WhatsApp message that appeared to come from the number of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The message from the prince reportedly included an infected file that infiltrated his phone, the newspaper said.

The Twitter account of the kingdom's US embassy issued a flat denial and called for the claims to be investigated “so that we can have all the facts out.”

Saudi Embassy US tweet

Amazon boss Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which employed the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Khashoggi was killed five months after the Bezos phone hack, which reportedly stole huge amounts of data from the phone within hours and stayed active for months.

The allegations will ignite debate around whether the Saudi heir was personally involved in leaking private information about Bezos to the National Enquirer tabloid.

Bezos revealed that AMI, which owns the National Enquirer, had attempted to blackmail him with intimate photos into dropping his investigation into how it had got access to his text messages — the messages revealed he was having an affair.

A private investigator hired by the Amazon CEO claimed later that Saudi Arabia had hacked his phone.

Saudi analysts told the Guardian that Bezos had likely been targeted because of the Washington Post’s coverage of Saudi Arabia, and Khashoggi’s columns about the crown prince’s crackdown of activists in the kingdom.

Bin Salman has repeatedly denied he was behind Khashoggi’s murder.