The world's richest man, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, accused Saudi Arabia of compromising him by hacking his phone, stealing data, and giving them to The National Enquirer which proceed to attempt blackmailing him.
Besides several exposing images of Mr. Bezos, the Saudis are said to have obtained explicit messages exchanged between him and his lover, one Lauren Sanchez. The main reason why AMI considered blackmail a viable option was Bezos's marital status; with the world's richest man announcing he's getting divorced from his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, in January, a confirmation of an extramarital affair would have been bound to cost him a significant sum – or will cost him now that the controversy came to light.
The accusation was laid out by Gavin de Becker, a veteran American security specialist well-known for his work in the public sphere, both in government or celebrity employment. Mr. Bezos hired Mr. Becker after being approached by TNE in early February via email, with its Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard threatening the multi-billionaire with a release of sensitive photos of him unless he makes The Washington Post, a publication in his ownership, agree to drop claims about TNE's coverage of the 55-year-old mogul being politically motivated, among other concessions.
Instead of yielding to the demands, Mr. Bezos went public with the entire affair almost immediately, detailing it in a Medium post. Amazon's top executive and Mr. de Becker previously alleged Mr. Howard's bold approach that left the evidence of blackmail in writing was made on behalf of David Pecker, the Chairman of The National Enquirer parent – American Media Inc. (AMI). Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Mr. Pecker have a "close relationship" they nurture to this date, Mr. de Becker said.
And while AMI remains adamant it procured the indecent photos of the Amazon founder over his lover's now-estranged brother, Michael Sanchez, Mr. de Becker penned a Saturday column in The Daily Beast wherein he describes how skeptical he was about the entire affair, ultimately concluding the media corporation's representatives were flat-out lying. The security veteran specializing in the protection of at-risk individuals said hid investigators "concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information."
Mr. de Becker did not make any claims in regards to how aware AMI was of the Saudi involvement, save for stating the company knew Mr. Sanchez was not the sole source of the compromising materials on Mr. Bezos it was provided with.
The probe yielded an unsurprising motive – Riyadh wanted to harm Mr. Bezos over The Washington Post's coverage of the murder of its correspondent and American resident Jamal Khashoggi. While the official version of the story is unlikely to ever say so, numerous intelligence agencies so far confirmed Mr. Khashoggi was murdered inside a Saudi embassy in Turkish capital Istanbul on October 2, 2018. He came to the consulate to obtain documents for his planned marriage but was strangled as soon as he entered the building, dismembered and dissolved into acid by a 20-men team flown in from Saudi Arabia a day earlier, according to several reports, including those from the Turkish government and The Washington Post.
"My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I'm 90 and reviewing my life, if I'm lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me," Mr. Bezos wrote two months ago, reiterating that he is in no way involved with TWP's everyday activities despite what the individuals investigated by the publication such as President Trump might claim.