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Riyadh rejects charge that Saudi prince hacked into Bezos' phone

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A report says data started leaving Mr Bezos' phone about a month after the alleged Saudi hacking.

Davos

SAUDI Arabia's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday that an allegation that the kingdom's crown prince had been involved in a plot to hack the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was "absurd".

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland: "I think 'absurd' is exactly the right word. The idea that the crown prince would hack Jeff Bezos' phone is absolutely silly."

Two United Nations (UN) officials were slated to report later on Wednesday that there is enough evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia had hacked the American billionaire's phone; they were also expected to urge both the kingdom and the United States to investigate the issue, 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 UN officials plan a public statement asserting that they have found credible a forensic report commissioned by Mr Bezos' security team that concluded his phone had probably been hacked via a tainted video sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to the Saudi crown prince.

The report, by FTI Consulting, concluded that massive amounts of data began leaving Mr Bezos' phone about a month after the video was shared in mid-2018, the source 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 he used is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone Mr Bezos had used, and extracted large amounts of data.

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. Ties had soured following the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, then a columnist for the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

The UN statement will come from Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression. They are putting together a fuller report they expect to give to the UN in June, the source said.

Amazon has declined comment. REUTERS