UN calls for 'immediate investigation' after Amazon boss's mobile phone 'hacked by Saudi Crown Prince'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

United Nations experts have called for an "immediate investigation" into reports Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince hacked into the mobile phone of Amazon boss and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

The experts have called for an investigation by the US into reports that Mr Bezos's phone was hacked after receiving a malicious video file from Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The report said a digital forensic investigation, commissioned by Mr Bezos, found it was highly likely the video file was the source of the hack, which is said to have captured large amounts of data from his phone, according to the Guardian.

According to the report, the Amazon chief - the world's richest man - and the Crown Prince had been having a WhatsApp exchange on May 1 2018 when the malicious file was sent.

The exchange happened five months before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family and a journalist with the Washington Post, of which Mr Bezos owned.

In response, Saudi Arabia’s US embassy called the claims “absurd” and asked for an investigation.

"Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out," the embassy said on Twitter.

Amazon has not commented on the claims.

"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," the UN experts said.

"At a time when Saudi Arabia was supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post."

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman was approached by ITV News about the hacking claims, but refused to comment.

At one point, the Saudi minister grabs the microphone from ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills.

The report said digital forensic analysis of the Amazon boss’s phone first began early last year following the publication of revelations about Mr Bezos’s private life in US tabloid the National Enquirer, which included private text messages.

The billionaire had asked his security team to uncover how the messages had been accessed.

In March 2019, one of the investigators claimed they had found evidence that Saudi Arabia had been involved in hacking the Amazon boss and gaining access to his data.

Gavin de Becker, who had been hired by Mr Bezos, wrote on the Daily Beast website that "our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information".