An investigator hired by Jeff Bezos has said Saudi Arabia hacked the Amazon chief's phone and gleaned private data from it.
Bezos, one of the world's richest men who owns the Washington Post newspaper, hired Gavin de Becker to find out how his private messages regarding an extra-marital affair had been leaked to US tabloid the National Enquirer.
De Becker said the hack was linked to the Washington Post's coverage of the the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. Khashoggi was a columnist at the newspaper.
Writing on the Daily Beast website, de Becker said the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc, had privately demanded that he deny finding any evidence of “electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their newsgathering process".
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information,” de Becker wrote. “As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.”
Bezos has claimed that the tabloid had threatened to publish intimate photos and messages shared between him and Lauren Sanchez, whom he had been dating, unless he called off an investigation into how the paper obtained the messages.
The National Enquirer published a series of stories earlier this year revealing Bezos' relationship with Sanchez after he announced he was divorcing wife MacKenzie Bezos after 25 years of marriage.
“Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” Bezos said last month.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.”
AMI has not yet commented on de Becker's claims. It has previously said it "acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr Bezos" and that it had negotiated in “good faith to resolve all matters with him”.
The Saudi embassy in the Washington has been approached for comment.