- Sanchez is the brother of Bezos' girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. He says he confirmed their affair to AMI, but was not the first source on the scandal.
- He claims in the lawsuit that the intimate photos AMI obtained of Bezos actually came from a hack carried out by Saudi Arabia
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The man accused of leaking intimate photos of Jeff Bezos to the National Enquirer has filed a new lawsuit against its parent company, claiming they framed him as the sole source of their reporting.
He also suggests that the photos likely came from a hack perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.
On March 27, Michael Sanchez filed a lawsuit against the Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc. He accused it of defamation and inflicting intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other complaints.
Sanchez is the brother of former LA news personality Lauren Sanchez, whose affair with the Amazon billionaire was detailed in a 12-page article by the Enquirer in January 2019.
After the story came out, Bezos hired security consultant Gavin de Becker to look into how the tabloid learned of the story, especially how they obtained the intimate photos.
When de Becker started narrowing in on a few potential subjects, including Michael Sanchez and the Saudis, AMI released a statement saying that Lauren's brother was their only source.
Sanchez admitted to confirming the relationship to the tabloid, but says he wasn't the source of the photos . He says he only worked with the Enquirer to influence its reporting in the best interests of his sister and Bezos.
He says AMI was motivated to pin the blame solely on him because of a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) on AMI. The existence of the NPA has been previously reported.
It was put in place after federal investigators implicated the company in a scheme to silence a woman who claimed to have had an affair with President Donald Trump.
According to the agreement, AMI would not be prosecuted for the scheme so long as they didn't commit another crime for three years.
Sanchez alleges that AMI got the pictures of Bezos through illegal means, likely through a Saudi hack, and that they were trying to hide this so as not to be caught breaking the NPA.
His lawsuit, describing AMI's purported dilemma, says: "This was doubly problematic for Defendants: if they were found to have committed extortion or obtained any Pornographic Materials through unlawful methods (such through the electronic hacking of Mr. Bezos' phone by Saudi Arabia), then in addition to facing prosecution for those crimes, the NPA would be rescinded, subjecting Defendants to prosecution for their earlier campaign finance crimes, discussed previously."
The Saudi connection to the story dates back to de Becker hiring an outside security consulting firm to do an analysis of Bezos' phone.
FTI Consulting found that within hours of Bezos receiving a text message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in May 2018, large amounts of data started to be extracted from his phone. They determined with "medium to high confidence" that Prince Mohammed hacked Bezos' phone .
However, the report didn't say what the Saudis got from the hack, or whether there was evidence they turned over their info to AMI.
In his lawsuit, Sanchez says that a relationship had already been established between the Saudis and AMI, who were hoping "of expanding AMI's media empire into the Saudi Kingdom.
He also says that the embarrassing story about Bezos was doubly useful because it could win them favor with the Saudis, and further their support from Trump, who has a very public dislike of Bezos.
The lawsuit claims: "On information and belief, in 2018 Defendants plotted to dig up embarrassing information about Mr. Bezos' personal life for use in a TNE 'hit piece' against Mr. Bezos. Doing so would kill two birds with one stone by garnering Defendants favor with both President Trump and Saudi Arabia.
"On further information and belief, Defendants received assistance toward this end from Saudi Arabia and MBS, who illegally hacked Mr. Bezos's cellular phone as previously described."
TNE stands for The National Enquirer and MBS stands for Mohammed bin Salman.
The lawsuit marks the latest development in a complicated and escalating legal battle.
In January, Sanchez filed another lawsuit against Bezos and de Becker, claiming they defamed him by falsely accusing him of leaking the intimate photos. Bezos denied the allegation , and accused Sanchez in a rebuttal of betraying his own family.
When reached for comment by Business Insider, Sanchez said he didn't think it was only the Saudis who helped the Enquirer on their story and that there were likely others.
He pointed the finger at a host of possible suspects, including de Becker, various national spy agencies like Israel's Mossad or Britain's MI6, as well as "one of Lauren's girlfriends/frenemies"
"First and foremost I do not believe it was only the Saudis," Sanchez said. "I believe it was all-of-the-above... but not me."
Business Insider contact out to Sanchez, AMI, and the Saudi government for comment on the lawsuit Monday afternoon. Sanchez and the Saudi government did not immediately respond.
A spokesman for AMI issued this statement: "The filing by Mr. Sanchez is his latest attempt to ignore the truth and rewrite history. The fact, as we have maintained throughout, is that Mr. Sanchez sold the National Enquirer the story about his sister's secret affair and was the sole source for its reporting. His frivolous lawsuit underscores what his true motivation is, his own greed."
The Saudi government did not immediately respond.
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