Bezos-hired private investigator alleged in a Saturday post at the Daily Beast. According to the investigator, Gavin De Becker, the Saudis obtained racy text messages between the married Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez. The material was leaked to the which published a story revealing Bezos’ affair.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone and gained private information,” De Becker wrote.
He added that it was “unclear to what degree, if any,” the “was aware of the details” of how the information had been obtained.
De Becker thinks the Saudis may have been motivated by the Bezos-owned ‘s dogged coverage of last October’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While the Saudi government initially denied responsibility for the killing, the CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder.
Hours before the story was published earlier this year, Jeff Bezos announced his separation from his wife of two decades, MacKenzie.
American Media has close ties to the Saudis
American Media Inc. (AMI), the company that publishes the , insists that its information about Bezos’ affair came from a single source: Lauren’s brother Michael. A report last month confirmed that Michael Sanchez had sold racy text messages to the for $200,000. However, the also indicated that the had “already been investigating whether Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez were having an affair” when they approached Michael Sanchez, suggesting that the magazine may have been initially tipped off to the relationship by someone else.
De Becker declined to provide proof that the Saudis were the original source for the story. He says he has turned his full findings over to federal law enforcement for additional investigation. However, De Becker points out that there is already extensive reporting on the close relationship between David Pecker, CEO of AMI, and the Saudi regime.
A year ago, AMI published (in the words of ) “a 97-page glossy magazine that is essentially a promotional brochure for Saudi Arabia.” Titled “the new kingdom,” it described Salman as “the most influential Arab leader” and touted his successes battling terrorism and building the Saudi economy.
After the magazine was published, worried that it might be required to register as a foreign agent, AMI notified the Justice Department that it had shared an advance copy of the magazine with an advisor to the Saudis. The Saudi advisor suggested some changes to the magazine and supplied AMI with some better photographs of Salman. AMI said it made some of the changes suggested by the advisor.
De Becker says that the advisor was Kacy Grine, a 30-year-old Frenchman who has become a frequent intermediary between the Saudi Kingdom and the West. The reported last year that Pecker had brought Grine along for a 2017 meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House.
Pecker was able to arrange the meeting because he and Trump have been friends and allies for decades. Shortly before the 2016 election, the paid former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 for the rights to a story on an alleged affair with Donald Trump. Instead of publishing the story, Pecker buried it, sparing Trump an embarrassing news cycle.
According to the , the Saudis were impressed at Pecker’s ability to get Grine a meeting with Trump, and soon Grine arranged a meeting between Pecker and the Saudi crown prince. “By January , Mr. Pecker was confident enough about his growing rapport with Saudi investors that he sought their help bankrolling a possible acquisition of magazine,” the reported last year. Pecker never succeeded in acquiring .
De Becker says AMI seemed desperate to downplay its Saudi ties
After the published its initial story about Bezos’ affair in January, Bezos hired De Becker to investigate how AMI had obtained his private messages to Sanchez. In response, AMI sent Bezos a letter threatening to publish stolen, graphic pictures of Bezos (including one “dick pic”) unless Bezos signed a confidentiality agreement.
De Becker says that one proposed draft of this agreement required Bezos and De Becker to publicly affirm that AMI had not engaged in “any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process.”
“I’d never publicly said anything about electronic eavesdropping or hacking,” De Becker notes. “They also wanted me to say our investigation had concluded that their Bezos story was not ‘instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.'”
Instead of buckling to AMI’s demands, Bezos published AMI’s threatening emails on Medium and gave De Becker an unlimited budget to figure out how AMI had obtained the emails. At this point, De Becker says, AMI worked hard to pin all the blame on Michael Sanchez.
“First through strong hints they gave to me, and later through direct statements, AMI practically pinned a ‘kick me’ sign on Michael Sanchez,” De Becker writes.
In short, AMI seemed desperate to deflect attention away from anyone else who might have helped AMI with the story. De Becker now believes that the “someone else” here is the Saudi government.
Bezos himself sounded a similar note in his February Medium post exposing AMI’s blackmail attempt.
“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote.