ANNA MIKHAILOVA: So why does Saudi prince escape uproar over leaks?
For a Government that launches a leak inquiry at the drop of a plumber’s wrench, it’s odd that Boris Johnson is so reluctant to find out who leaked a text from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
MBS, as he is known, likes to WhatsApp the powerful when his interests are threatened, and last June lobbied Boris to ‘correct’ the Premier League’s ‘wrong’ decision not to allow his £300 million take-over of Newcastle United.
Boris, the Culture department and the Foreign Office were supportive of the Saudi’s demand for a new toy and the PM asked key ally Eddie Lister to get involved.
Lister’s sudden resignation as Gulf envoy last Friday night should only add to the need to widen the leak inquiry to MBS – and not just focus on the PM’s texts with James Dyson over ventilators.
After all, there are potential national security considerations at stake, considering the allegations by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos that the Crown Prince hacked his phone in 2018 through a WhatsApp message embedded with Israeli-developed spyware called Pegasus.
For a Government that launches a leak inquiry at the drop of a plumber’s wrench, it’s odd that Boris Johnson is so reluctant to find out who leaked a text from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (pictured)
Boris, the Culture department and the Foreign Office were supportive of the Saudi’s demand for a new toy and the PM asked key ally Eddie Lister to get involved
Details of the affair that ended Bezos’s marriage were subsequently leaked to US magazine the National Enquirer.
In return, the world’s richest man financed a recent documentary on the Saudi royal that contained the hacking claim and the CIA’s belief that the future Saudi king authorised the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
MBS denies both claims. But his lobbying over Newcastle United needs investigating alongside whether Boris may have exposed himself to hacking by a foreign power or rogue operatives.
Asked if the PM’s phone has been checked for spyware, Downing Street refused to comment.
Asked why the MBS messages leak isn’t part of the leak inquiry, No 10 also declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Boris refuses to change the phone number he’s had for ten years, which, let’s face it, is likely to contain compromising details of his liaisons dangereuses.
If not for us, do it for Carrie.
Long list of questions that saw off Lister…
Farewell Eddie Lister. Five days after this column revealed he owns shares in a company that won £1 million in Government and NHS contracts since he joined No 10, the PM’s most senior adviser has quit.
His brief time as envoy for the ‘Gulf and Special Projects’ has been marred by questions over his private interests.
Farewell Eddie Lister. Five days after this column revealed he owns shares in a company that won £1 million in Government and NHS contracts since he joined No 10, the PM’s most senior adviser has quit
When appointed, he refused to answer questions about what his consultancy firm did or the identity of its clients.
Weeks later, his Lords register of interests revealed its sole client was property giant Delancey, who put him on its payroll as an adviser.
But pay cheques from two developers – he is also a director of Stanhope – on top of a £140,000 Downing Street salary isn’t enough for some.
I hear the peer was ‘shaken’ when told he had to turn down a £400,000-a-year job with PR firm Finsbury two weeks ago after The Times asked him questions about it.
Funny, then, that last night No 10 insisted Eddie was ‘always expected to leave around this time’.
Which might seem news to the PM, who, two months ago tasked him with ‘unlocking the potential’ of the Gulf.
And even bigger news to Lister, who must be pining for that £400,000.
If you want an insight into how MPs view calls to tighten rules on their second jobs, look no further than George Freeman.
The Tory former Health Minister has been rapped for his ‘clear’ breach of the ministerial code over failing to ask permission before taking paid work last summer for a firm that makes PPE.
When I asked him for a comment, the MP was so indignant he threatened to sue the Government over ‘prevention of livelihood’.
He believed he had a case with the European Court of Human Rights.
Poor George, struggling on his £82,000 MP salary, his taxpayer-funded mobile phone, utility bills, travel costs and – until recently – £2,300 a month rental home.
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