New allegations link Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with the hacking operation of American billionaire Jeff Bezos’ phone.
The alleged piracy incident occurred five months before the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who worked for the Washington Post, owned by Bezos.
Khashoggi, who was opposed to the government, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018.
Bin Salman faced an accusation that he had issued the killing order, but Saudi Arabia has consistently said that the incident was a rogue operation by members of the Queen’s security services.
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The British Guardian newspaper reported yesterday that Jeff Bezos’s phone was hacked after receiving a suspicious link from Bin Salman’s personal account via the WhatsApp messaging app.
Below we review what we know about what happened.
May 1May 2018 – “File not required”
According to the Guardian, a “spam file” was sent from the Crown Prince’s account to Bezos on this date, as part of what appeared to be a “friendly exchange” of letters.
The Guardian quoted anonymous sources as saying that within hours a large amount of data had been withdrawn from the Bezos phone.
October 2 /October 2018 – Khashoggi murder
Jamal Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents related to his marriage to the Turkish Khadija Genghis, but he did not leave.
It took Saudi Arabia more than two weeks to admit Khashoggi’s death.
November 16November 2018 – Mohammed bin Salman charged
The Washington Post says that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes bin Salman has ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi; while Saudi Arabia says the crown prince is not involved in the killing.
February 7February 2019 – Bezos and correctYF.HPopulist
Bezos accuses the US-based National Inquirer, a pro-Saudi populist, of slandering and blackmailing him after he published text messages between him and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor on Fox News.
March 30March 2019 – Saudi link
An investigator hired by Bezos, named Gavin de Baker, finds links between Saudi Arabia and the Washington Post owner’s phone piracy.
“With a great deal of confidence, our investigators and many of our experts have found that the Saudis found a way to the Bezos phone, and obtained special information,” De Baker wrote on the Daily Beast website.
June 19June 2019 – “premeditated murder”
Agnes Calamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who led the investigation team in Istanbul, issues a report saying that the Khashoggi killing was planned and that Prince Muhammad bin Salman should be investigated.
December 23December 2019 – death sentences
A Saudi court orders the death sentence of five people and imprisonment of three others in the Khashoggi murder case. The UN rapporteur says: “Those who have issued death orders have not only escaped punishment, but have not even been touched by an investigation or trial.”
Jan 21 /January 2020 – “absurd” lawsuits
The Guardian reports that the owner of the Washington Post received an unwanted file from Bin Salman’s account through the WhatsApp messaging app – five months before the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
The newspaper says it does not know what was taken from the phone or how it was used. The Saudi embassy in the United States said the allegations were “absurd.”
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world, had friendly relations with Bin Salman and had economic interests in Saudi Arabia before the murder.
However, relations were strained after the Washington Post’s strong condemnation of Saudi Arabia and its reports of the killing.
Iyad al-Baghdadi, who was a friend of Khashoggi, the Oslo-based Arab writer and activist, believes that the phone piracy of the world’s richest man is sending a message to critics of the regime in Riyadh.
Al-Baghdadi wrote in the Washington Post: “This is the dark logic of targeting Bezos: If the richest man in the world can be targeted and blackmailed, who is safe?”