Saudi foreign minister calls claim that Crown Prince hacked Bezos phone 'absurd'

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Wednesday that an allegation the kingdom’s crown prince had been involved in a plot to hack the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was “absurd”.

“I think absurd is exactly the right word,” Prince Faisal told Reuters in an interview at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. “The idea that the crown prince would hack Jeff Bezos’ phone is absolutely silly.”

Two United Nations officials will report on Wednesday that there is enough evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia had hacked Bezos’ phone and both the kingdom and the United States should investigate, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier on Wednesday.

Prince Faisal said the kingdom would investigate it were presented with evidence “that substantiated these claims”.

The United Nations’ officials plan a public statement asserting that they found credible a forensic report commissioned by Bezos’ security team that concluded his phone probably had been hacked via a tainted video sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to Saudi’s 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 said, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject.

The Guardian first reported the crown prince’s alleged involvement. 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.

Bezos’ security team began investigating the hack of his phone after text messages between him and a former television anchor, who the National Enquirer said Bezos was dating, were published in the tabloid.

The Saudi government has said it had nothing to do with that reporting.

Prince Faisal said he was not concerned that the hacking allegation would shake the confidence of investors in Saudi Aria. The kingdom has faced scrutiny for the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was also a columnist for the Bezos’ owned Washington Post, and its handling of the case.

“We’re very happy with our investment flow,” Prince Faisal said. “If there are concerns by some people, we will try to address those.”

Separately, Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia was open to talks with Tehran and that “many countries” had offered to mediate talks between the two countries, but added that establishing the conditions for talks “is really up to Iran”.

He said Iran would have to accept it “cannot further its regional agenda through violence” as a condition for any talks.

Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Alexander Smith and Alex Richardson