EXCLUSIVE - An extraordinary allegation by U.N. investigators, that an account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been linked to the hacking of Jeff Bezos’ phone, has reignited the controversy surrounding a tabloid report on the Amazon founder.
The report was welcomed by Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’ girlfriend, who has repeatedly denied accusations by some news organizations that he leaked below-the-belt selfies of the billionaire to the National Enquirer.
In his first public comment on the U.N. findings, Sanchez told me in an interview: “Which paper do I go to to get my reputation back?”
The Hollywood talent manager said he had been the target of a “well-orchestrated media crucifixion.”
Sanchez earlier acknowledged to me that he made a “deal with the devil”—meaning the Enquirer—to help manage the unfolding scandal involving the romance between Bezos and his sister Lauren Sanchez, which was followed by Bezos’ divorce. But he insisted he never possessed the naked pictures that the Enquirer obtained.
“The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and Daily Beast took spoon-fed lies and half-truths from ‘anonymous’ sources in the race to publish ‘exclusive’ stories about my sister and Jeff Bezos,” Michael Sanchez told me.
Bezos owns the Washington Post, which, along with the New York Times, ran a substantial story today on the U.N. report. The story was first reported by the Guardian.
The Journal, for example, reported in March 2018: “Michael Sanchez, the brother of Mr. Bezos’ lover, sold the billionaire’s secrets for $200,000 to the Enquirer’s publisher, said people familiar with the matter.”
The accusations against Sanchez strained his relations with several family members, who are now said to have apologized. The broader allegations led to a federal grand jury probe, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote today to Bezos, seeking more information on the alleged hacking.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called the U.N. allegations “absurd,” according to the Post, saying: “The idea that the crown prince would hack Jeff Bezos’ phone is absolutely silly.”
But the allegations thrust back into the news the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who was an opinion writer for the Post. Five Saudi nationals were sentenced to death in that murder after a secret trial.
According to the U.N. investigators, whose findings were reported by the three newspapers, the crown prince’s involvement in the alleged hacking was part of “a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents.”
Bezos and MBS exchanged phone numbers at a 2018 dinner right after the Post published a Khashoggi column ripping the prince’s regime.
Four weeks later, according to the papers’ sources, the prince sent Bezos a WhatsApp message containing a video that contained malicious code. Within hours, the flow of data out of Bezos’ phone suddenly increased by nearly 30,000 percent.
Khashoggi was murdered six months later, in October 2018.
The following month, the prince’s account sent Bezos a photo—with a “sardonic caption”—that looked like his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, a Los Angeles television personality. The Enquirer story, with photos and steamy text messages, hit the newsstands at the beginning of 2019.