Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is “scheduled to meet with federal prosecutors in New York as soon as this week” regarding allegations that the National Enquirer tabloid and its parent company, American Media Inc., engaged in extortion and blackmail with a stolen nude and other sexts from an adulterous relationship.
The Enquirer/AMI obtained the photos while trying to blow an affair between Bezos and news anchor and media personality Lauren Sanchez wide open. While the tabloid did publish a piece earlier this year with excerpts of text exchanges between the two, Bezos has accused AMI and its chairman David Pecker of holding pictures of Bezos in a state of arousal as well as compromising photos of his girlfriend in reserve – then threatening to publish them unless he ended an investigation into who AMI’s source was.
Initial reports indicated that AMI bought the material from Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent and allegedly a serial snitcher who had been a source for AMI publications before. However, Pecker’s ties to Donald Trump stretch back years, and he reached an immunity deal with prosecutors last year in exchange for information about how he used AMI and the Enquirer to buy up the rights to and then not publish negative stories about Trump. Bezos has hinted that Pecker could have been retaliating on behalf of Trump, who has a bizarre and mostly one-sided feud with Bezos, or the Saudi Arabian government, which tortured and murdered columnist Jamal Khashoggi of the Bezos-owned Washington Post last year.
Bezos’s security consultant, Gavin de Becker, claimed last month that his team had “high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information”. However, he did not provide details beyond vague references to powerful spyware the Saudis had acquired (thus potentially adding an Israeli angle to this already-convoluted mess).
According to CNN, while Bezos has cooperated with prosecutors looking into his and de Becker’s allegations, he has been reluctant to actually let them look at the phone:
Plans for that meeting come as prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are seeking to obtain access to Bezos’s electronic devices, these people said. They are attempting to examine Bezos’s private investigators’ allegation that the Saudis “gained private information” from his phone, and that such information wound up in the hands of American Media Inc. tabloid the National Enquirer, which published Bezos’s texts.
Attorneys for Bezos, the world’s richest man, have been engaged in negotiations regarding his electronics. In recent weeks, Bezos’s attorneys and investigators turned over to federal authorities documents and other material from their own inquiry, but not his devices, these people said.
Federal investigators have not yet reached any conclusions regarding whether AMI attempted to extort Bezos, CNN wrote, and by all signs any official investigation into just who obtained access to Bezos’s private photos is in its preliminary stages.
Bezos referred to his ownership of the Post as a “complexifier” when he made the initial allegations of blackmail, though the situation appears to have only gotten more complexifiered as it goes on. This has all the makings of a lesser James Bond movie: just imagine a very tired-looking Daniel Craig discovering the Saudis’ sinister plan is to steal a photo of the richest man in the world’s dick before getting decked from behind with a stack of dailies by the Enquirer’s burliest 'reporter'.
Pecker and crew’s troubles, on the other hand, are getting worse by the minute. On Wednesday, news broke that AMI’s hedge fund backers are trying to sell the Enquirer, with the tabloid’s spiraling subscription numbers, massive debt and continual self-inflicted humiliation over its reporting tactics, and Pecker’s sycophantic relationship with the President cited as factors. [CNN]
Featured photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack (AP)