World

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' blackmail saga full of intrigue

Amazon boss accuses tabloid of threatening him with his intimate texts, photos

SAN FRANCISCO Blackmail, extortion, steamy photos and political intrigue - all the elements you would find in some of the fiction books sold on Amazon.

Except the latest scandal to grip the world is real.

And there is an Amazon link – it involves its owner and the world's richest man Jeff Bezos.

The whole thing blew open last Thursday when Mr Bezos unleashed an extraordinary missive directed at US tabloid National Enquirer, which sent shock waves online and offline.

The story goes back to when he and his wife announced last month that they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage.

Around the time, the National Enquirer touted it was publishing alleged intimate text messages between Mr Bezos and Ms Lauren Sanchez, a former television anchor whom he was said to be dating.

PUBLIC SAFETY EXPERT

Mr Bezos, who is worth an estimated US$133 billion (S$180 billion) and owns The Washington Post, hired Mr Gavin de Becker, a public safety expert and former appointee of former US president Ronald Reagan to find out how the texts and photos leaked.

Mr de Becker concluded that the billionaire was not hacked.

He said in an interview last week the Enquirer's scoop about Mr Bezos's relationship with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez began with a "politically motivated" leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Washington Post - an effort potentially involving several important figures in US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Mr Bezos claims American Media Inc (AMI) chief executive David Pecker was "apoplectic" over the ongoing investigation. AMI owns the National Enquirer.

"In the AMI letters I'm making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal," Mr Bezoswrote.

"They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we 'have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces'."

In the post, he also alluded to Saudi Arabia's displeasure at The Washington Post's coverage of the murder of its columnist, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He also referenced media reports about alleged links between AMI and Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.

And to add spice to the mix, Mr de Becker told the Daily Beast last week his investigation of the leaks included Ms Sanchez's brother Micheal.

"We are studying many people who might have been involved in this, and Michael Sanchez is one we have spoken with and been looking at," he said.

Mr Sanchez, a Trump supporter who slams critical reporting of the President as fake news, claims he is innocent.

He said in interviews with The Washington Post that his priorities are to protect his sister's relationship with Mr Bezos and "to clear my name by telling the truth".

AMI too pushed back, saying its reporting on an extramarital relationship involving the world's richest man was lawful and it would investigate his claims, reported Reuters.

AMI said at the time of Mr Bezos' allegations, it was "in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him".

"In light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims.

"Upon completion of that investigation, the board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary," it added.

Last night, Saudi Arabia reacted too.

"This is something between the two parties, we have nothing to do with it," the kingdom's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told CBS' Face the Nation when asked if the Saudi government was involved in the Enquirer leaks.

"It sounds to me like a soap opera," he said in an interview that was to be aired yesterday. 

WORLD