New details have emerged about Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman's handling of dissent and criticism. Five months prior to the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, bin Salman, commonly known as 'MBS', allegedly hacked into the phone of WaPo owner and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos. Nine months later, intimate details of Bezos' private life, including his alleged extra-marital affair, some private chats and intimate pictures were published by US tabloid the National Enquirer.
Bezos' mobile phone was hacked in May 2018. He received an encrypted WhatsApp message from the personal account of MBS, which included a malicious file, that infiltrated the phone of the tech baron, the Guardian reported. Within hours, large chunks of data were taken from his phone.
Washington Post connection
The Washington Post has been critical of the crown prince's conduct, especially in relation to dissent. In October 2018, WaPo Saudi journalist Khasshoggi, who wrote critical pieces about MBS' policies, was butchered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Eight men have been implicated in the murder, but the incident has been widely linked to MBS and that it was he, who had ordered the journalist's gory murder.
In January last year, intimate details of Bezos' private life were published by the National Inquirer. Bezos' alleged extra-marital affair, some private texts and intimate pictures were published. Digital forensic experts started examining Bezos' phone after this extraordinary revelation and investigation by the billionaire's own team found with "high confidence" that the Saudis had managed to "access" Bezos' phone and had "gained private information" about him.
What's next for the Saudi crown prince
Despite an international outcry, the Saudi heir denied he had anything to do with the journalist's murder and termed it a "rogue operation". There were few takers for this line and even US President Donald Trump called it the "worst cover-up ever".
The new developments come at a time when the crown prince is pushing his Vision 2030 which involves modernizing Saudi society, opening the country's economy and moving its over-dependence away from oil.