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Saudi Arabia denies hacking Jeff Bezos' phone

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Image: Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc.,
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Amazon.com Inc., arrives at an Economic Club of Washington discussion in Washington.   -  
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LONDON — Saudi Arabia has dismissed reports that it was responsible for hacking into and retrieving information from the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man.

"Recent media reports that suggest the kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd," the Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a tweet. "We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out."

The explosive claims were first made by The Guardian on Tuesday night.

The story alleged that Bezos' cellphone was hacked in 2018 after he received a WhatsApp message from the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne widely known as MBS. The Guardian said it obtained the leaked results of a forensic analysis which showed it was "highly probable" that the hack was triggered by a corrupted video file sent by crown prince's account.

NBC News could not confirm The Guardian's report.

A lawyer for Bezos told The Guardian: "I have no comment on this except to say that Mr Bezos is cooperating with investigations."

NBC News could not immediately reach Bezos representative.

David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said on Twitter that he and Agnes Callamard, the U.N's special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, would on Wednesday issue a report on "these very serious hacking allegations."

The allegations come a year after details of Bezos' private life were leaked to the National Enquirer magazine in January 2019 Bezos unexpectedly announced he was to divorce Mackenzie, his wife of 25 years and mother of the couple's four children.

Hours after Bezos confirmed the split on Twitter, National Enquirer posted a short story online revealing the business mogul had been in a relationship with another woman, Lauren Sanchez. More lurid details later appeared online and in the subsequent print edition.

Meanwhile Bezos launched his own investigation into how the information was leaked and alleged in a blog post that the leak may have been politically motivated.

The Saudi government is keen to attract investment from Western businesses and last year opened up the country to Western tourists for the first time.

Bezos, whose wealth isestimated to be more than $130 billion, visited Saudi Arabia in March 2018. Images released by the country's government at the time show him sitting alongside the crown prince, the pair apparently sharing a joke.

Crown Prince Mohammed, who has been on a drive to modernize his country's society and overhaul its oil-dependent economy, has been criticized for a deep crackdown on dissent in the kingdom. The murder of Washington Post writer and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which the CIA concluded the crown prince ordered, put a damper on the royal's international effort to publicize his reform efforts.

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