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Saudi crown prince implicated in hack of Jeff Bezos' phone, UN report to say

Organisation to recommend both Saudi Arabia and US investigate claims against Mohammed bin Salman, allegations which Riyadh describe as 'absurd'
Bezos' security team concluded his phone probably had been hacked with a tainted video sent from bin Salman's, pictured, WhatsApp account (Twitter)

Two UN officials will report on Wednesday that there is enough evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia hacked Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' phone and both the kingdom and the United States should investigate, a person familiar with the matter has said.

The United Nations' officials plan a public statement asserting that they found credible a forensic report commissioned by Bezos' security team which concluded that his phone probably had been hacked with a tainted video sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The report by FTI Consulting concluded that massive amounts of data began leaving Bezos' phone about a month after the video was shared in mid-2018, the person told Reuters, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject.

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Outside experts consulted by the UN agreed that while the case was not airtight, the evidence was strong enough to warrant a fuller investigation.

The report is set to worsen relations between the world's richest man and the kingdom which had soured following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, who was also a columnist for Middle East Eye and the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

The UK's Guardian newspaper first reported the crown prince's alleged involvement on Tuesday. 

It said the encrypted message from the number used by the crown prince is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone Bezos had used and extracted large amounts of data.

'Absurd'

Saudi Arabia's US embassy has dismissed the allegations.

"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," it said in a message posted on Twitter.

The UN statement will come from Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and David Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression.

The two officials are building toward a fuller report they expect to give to the UN in June, the person said. 

The officials said in Twitter posts that they will be releasing a statement on Wednesday addressing the Guardian report.

Amazon declined to comment over the reports.

The relationship between Bezos and the Saudi government had soured since early last year after he alluded to Saudi Arabia's displeasure at the Washington Post's coverage of the murder of Khashoggi.

Bezos' security chief said at the time that Saudi Arabia had access to his phone and gained private information from it involving text messages between him and a former television anchor, who the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper said Bezos was dating.

Riyadh had said it had nothing to do with the reporting.

In December, a Saudi court exonerated bin Salman's top aides over the murder of Khashoggi, a verdict condemned globally as a travesty of justice but backed by Washington.

Both the CIA and Callamard have directly linked the prince to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.