The feud between Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer took another stunning turn over the weekend when a personal investigator for the Amazon.com Inc. chief executive officer accused Saudi Arabia of accessing Bezos’ phone data before the tabloid exposed his extramarital affair.
Gavin de Becker, a security consultant for Bezos, made his accusations in a 2000-plus-word post in the Daily Beast, which the news site labeled as “opinion.” The investigator gave no direct evidence to reinforce his allegations, which furthered a suggestion made by Bezos in February that the tabloid’s interest in his personal life could be linked to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Enquirer parent American Media Inc. has offered an explanation with far less political intrigue: It learned of Bezos’ affair from his lover’s brother.
De Becker said Bezos is a target of the Saudi government because Bezos owns the Washington Post, which has written extensively about Khashoggi’s murder at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The investigation “concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, and gained private information,” de Becker said in the column. It’s unclear to what degree American Media was aware of the details, he wrote. Bezos has accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him.
The investigation “studied the well-documented and close relationship” between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and AMI Chairman David Pecker, de Becker said. De Becker’s post makes no mention as to whether any sensitive information about Amazon was compromised. The company has been expanding in the Middle East and purchased e-commerce site Souq.com in 2017. Amazon representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
In a blog post on Feb. 7, Bezos alleged that American Media, threatened to publish embarrassing photos of himself and a woman who wasn’t his wife. It was the Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, that, on its front page in January, said Bezos had been “caught cheating on his wife of 25 years with the spouse of a Hollywood mogul!”–a former TV anchor named Lauren Sanchez.
American Media said in a statement that Sanchez’s brother was its only source for the report. “Despite the false and unsubstantiated claims of Mr. de Becker, American Media has, and continues to, refute the unsubstantiated claims that the materials for our report were acquired with the help of anyone other than the single source who first brought them to us.”
Bezos wrote in his blog post that the Post’s “unrelenting coverage” of the murder of its columnist is “undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.” Khashoggi, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was a leading critic of the country’s ruling crown prince, whom Trump regards as an important ally. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by people close to the crown prince and U.S. lawmakers say intelligence indicates that the crown prince was involved in the murder.
In February, Jeff Bezos enlisted celebrity lawyer Marty Singer, who has made a name for himself by scaring the tabloids away from his clients, to take on the National Enquirer over its threat to publish personal photos.
Read more: fortune.com