Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s phone was hacked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018, five months before the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Bezos and bin Salman were having a friendly discussion on Whatsapp when on May 1 bin Salman sent the Amazon CEO a video file. That file was likely infected with malware, and in a matter of hours large amounts of data were extracted from Bezos’s phone.
Bin Salman is currently attempting to open Saudi Arabia to western investment and wean the country’s economy off its dependence on oil. However, the prince is suspected of involvement in the murder of Khashoggi, which occurred at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.
Khashoggi, a columnist at the Bezos-owned Post, was critical of the Saudi regime and allied himself with an organization funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s rival in the Persian Gulf.
If confirmed, the hack into Bezos’s phone would also raise questions regarding how the National Enquirer tabloid received text messages between Bezos and his mistress in early 2019, including photos of the two in various revealing states.
On February 7, Bezos published the photos online to prove that American Media Inc., the owner of the Enquirer, was attempting to blackmail him to stop the Amazon CEO’s investigation into how the Enquirer obtained the text messages in the first place.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks and corruption,” Bezos wrote at the time. “I prefer to stand up, roll this log over and see what crawls out.”