The United Nations has said that it believes that the Saudi crown prince could be involved in the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ mobile phone.
Mr Bezos, the world’s richest man, allegedly received a WhatsApp message in 2018 that contained a malicious file, said to be from the personal account of the Saudi Arabian leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
The UN said that it is “gravely concerned” by the information it received about the case from Mr Bezos’ team, saying the hack is in contravention of “fundamental international human rights”.
It also called for an immediate investigation by the US and other authorities into the incident.
UN human rights experts said in a statement: “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 (which Mr Bezos owns) reporting on Saudi Arabia.
“The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.”
The UN report also alleges that Israeli spyware could have been used in the hack, which it says Saudi Arabia has purchased and previously deployed.
Saudi Arabia has called the initial claims “absurd”, saying: “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
Speaking to reporters in Davos, Saudi’s foreign minister said that its government will investigate, on the grounds it is presented with evidence, adding the idea it hacked Mr Bezos’ phone is “silly”.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Mr Bezos were already strained following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, who wrote for the Washington Post.
Mr Khashoggi, who was sharply critical of the crown prince, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October that year.
Early in 2019, Mr Bezos suggested that Saudi Arabia was not happy with the Washington Post’s reporting on the killing.
His security chief claims that during that time Saudi Arabia had access to the businessman’s phone, and had even taken private messages between him and a television presenter, leading to a tabloid report suggesting the two were dating.
The kingdom denied the claims.