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UN expert: Saudi crown prince behind hack on Amazon CEO

January 24, 2020 at 6:45 pm

The founder of the Amazon website Jeff Bezos (3rd L) poses for a photo during his visit in in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 9 2016 [Pool/Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu]

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has declared that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was “the most likely source” of the hacking of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s phone, Anadolu Agency reports.

“The company [FTI Consulting] responsible for forensic investigation has been extremely thorough and robust because they have done this investigation as part of an FBI investigation,” Agnes Callamard told TRT World late Thursday.

Callamard stressed that her team went through the report with their own experts and reached the conclusion that Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman was behind the hacking.

“We received the report a few months ago and over the last few weeks, we have consulted our own independent experts, who have reviewed the findings and the work of that initial forensic investigation.”

READ: Bezos tweets #Jamal tribute after Saudi hacking reports

“And they have concluded, following a range of expert exchanges, that the most likely source of the hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone was indeed a WhatsApp message originating from an account owned by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Noting that the evidence provided was very technical, she said: “Immediately after receiving the video file from that WhatsApp account, the phone behaved in a very different fashion than it had done before receiving that message and in particular, the data being exported out of the phone increased by thousand of percentage.”

Multiple news outlets including the Guardian, Financial Times and Daily Beast reported on Tuesday that bin Salman was behind the hacking of Bezos’ phone in May 2018 when he sent a video via WhatsApp loaded with spyware in a bid to extract files from Bezos’s phone.

Bezos also owns the US daily Washington Post, where journalist Jamal Khashoggi used to write columns criticizing bin Salman’s repressive policies before being assassinated by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

UN rapporteurs said Wednesday that their initial findings indicated that bin Salman was involved in efforts to hack Bezos’s phone in an attempt to quash The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.

“The information we have received suggests 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,” Callamard and David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a joint statement.

“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands an immediate investigation by the 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,” the UN rapporteurs urged.

READ: Reports Saudi hacked Amazon boss Bezos’ phone ‘absurd’

Hours after the scandal broke, Saudi Arabia’s US Embassy called the allegations “absurd” on Twitter late Tuesday.

“We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” the embassy added.

Saudi officials turned to the same pattern after Khashoggi’s killing: an immediate denial followed by calls for an investigation.

Riyadh acknowledges its agents killed Khashoggi but blames it on a botched rendition operation that was executed without bin Salman’s consent, an explanation scoffed at by critics who doubt the killing could have been conducted without the consent of bin Salman, the Kingdom’s de facto ruler.

The CIA determined with confidence that bin Salman directed Khashoggi’s murder.