Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer newspaper of blackmail

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01:54 mins.
08.02.2019

Blackmail allegation

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused the National Enquirer of blackmail, saying the tabloid threatened to publish intimate photos of him. The paper's publisher has said it will "thoroughly investigate" the claims.

 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Thursday accused the owner of the US newspaper National Enquirer of blackmailing him with threats to publish "intimate photos."

In a blog post, Bezos claimed that "top people" at the Enquirer had approached him with a deal, asking him to stop investigating how it had obtained his personal text messages, which were published in a story several weeks ago.

The Amazon chief said he was also asked to make a public statement announcing that the Enquirer's reporting on him was not politically motivated. In return, he said the tabloid promised not to publish "intimate photos" he had sent to his mistress.

The National Enquirer's parent company and publisher, American Media Inc (AMI), has said it would "thoroughly investigate" Bezos' claims of blackmail and take any necessary action. It also defended its reporting, saying "it believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos."

AMI, whose top boss David Pecker is close to US President Donald Trump, last month reported Bezos had an extramarital affair with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez.

"Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption," Bezos wrote in the blog post titled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker" published on Medium. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."

Read more: Is Trump's criticism of Amazon justified?

Alleged blackmail followed investigation

Bezos and his wife announced in January that they were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage, following a period of "loving exploration" and trial separation.

That same day, the National Enquirer advertised it was publishing alleged intimate text messages between Bezos and Sanchez.

Bezos then opened an investigation into the leak led by Gavin de Becker, a longtime security consultant and former appointee of US President Ronald Reagan.

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In an interview with the Daily Beast, De Becker said "strong leads point to political motives" and that he was interested in Lauren Sanchez's brother Michael, a vocal supporter of Trump with links to his inner circle, as a possible perpetrator.

Bezos, Amazon and the newspaper that he privately owns, the Washington Post, have all been targets of attacks on Twitter by Trump.

The Washington Post publishes many articles critical of Trump, and the president has said the paper acts as Amazon's "chief lobbyist."

Trump called Bezos "Jeff Bozo" in a tweet last month about the National Enquirer's coverage of his divorce.

"It's unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy," Bezos wrote. "President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets."

Bezos's blog mentioned AMI and Pecker's previous cooperation with Trump, including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors.

It also highlighted the publisher's links to Saudi Arabia — whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of ordering the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Vanishes into thin air

October 2: Prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain an official document for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He never emerged from the building, prompting Cengiz, who waited outside, to raise the alarm.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Confusion over whereabouts

October 3: Turkish and Saudi officials came up with conflicting reports on Khashoggi's whereabouts. Riyadh said the journalist had left the mission shortly after his work was done. But Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the journalist was still in the consulate.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Murder claims

October 6: Turkish officials said they believed the journalist was likely killed inside the Saudi consulate. The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi wrote, cited unnamed sources to report that Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team "came from Saudi Arabia" to kill the man.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Ankara seeks proof

October 8: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Saudi Arabia to prove that Khashoggi left its consulate in Istanbul. Turkey also sought permission to search the mission premises. US President Donald Trump voiced concern about the journalist's disappearance.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

'Davos in the Desert' hit

October 12: British billionaire Richard Branson halted talks over a $1 billion Saudi investment in his Virgin group's space ventures, citing Khashoggi's case. He also pulled out of an investment conference in Riyadh dubbed the "Davos in the Desert." His move was followed by Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi, JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and a host of other business leaders.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Search operation

October 15: Turkish investigators searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The search lasted more than eight hours and investigators removed samples from the building, including soil from the consulate garden and a metal door, one official said.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Death after fistfight

October 19: Saudi Arabia finally admitted that Khashoggi died at the consulate. The kingdom's public prosecutor said preliminary investigations showed the journalist was killed in a "fistfight." He added that 18 people had been detained. A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said the country is "investigating the regrettable and painful incident."

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

'Grave mistake'

October 21: Saudi Arabia provided yet another account of what happened to Khashoggi. The kingdom's foreign minister admitted the journalist was killed in a "rogue operation," calling it a "huge and grave mistake," but insisted that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had not been aware of the murder. Riyadh said it had no idea where Khashoggi's body was.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Germany halts arms sales

October 21: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would put arms exports to Saudi Arabia on hold for the time being, given the unexplained circumstances of Khashoggi's death. Germany is the fourth largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia after the United States, Britain and France.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Strangled to death, dissolved in acid

October 31: The Turkish prosecutor concluded that Khashoggi was strangled to death soon after entering the consulate, and was then dismembered. Another Turkish official later claimed the body was dissolved in acid. Turkish President Erdogan said the order to murder the journalist came from "the highest levels" of Saudi Arabia's government.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Grilled at the UN

November 5: Saudi Arabia told the United Nations it would prosecute those responsible for Khashoggi's murder. This came as the United States and dozens of other countries raised the journalist's death before the UN Human Rights Council and called for a transparent investigation.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Fiancee in mourning

November 8: Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, wrote on Twitter that she was "unable to express her sorrow" upon learning that the journalist's body was dissolved with chemicals. "Are these killers and those behind it human beings?" she tweeted.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Turkey shares audio recordings

November 10: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reveals that officials from Saudi Arabia, the US, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Symbolic funeral prayers

November 16: A symbolic funeral prayer for Khashoggi is held in the courtyard of the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul. Yasin Aktay, advisor to President Erdogan, speaks at the service.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Saudi-owned villas searched

November 26: Turkish forensic police bring the investigation to the Turkish province of Yalova, where sniffer dogs and drones search two Saudi-owned villas in the village Samanli.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

100 days since killing

January 10: Amnesty International Turkey members demonstrate outside the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, marking 100 day since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. One woman holds up a street sign which reads "Jamal Khashoggi Street". The organization has called for an international investigation into the case.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

Saudi murder trial begins

January 3: The Khashoggi trial begins in Saudi Arabia, where state prosecutors say they will seek the death sentence for five of the eleven suspects. A request for the gathered evidence has been send to Turkish authorities. A date for the second hearing has not yet been set.

Jamal Khashoggi: A mysterious disappearance and death

UN inquiry team in Turkey

January 28: Agnes Callamard, who is leading the UN probe into the handling of the Khashoggi case, arrives in Ankara where she meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The human rights expect will stay in the country for the rest of the week to speak with prosecutors and others involved in the case.

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