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Kroll report: WhatsApp messages did not concern Khashoggi killing

Published: Updated:

Leading New York-based corporate investigations and risk consulting firm, Kroll, challenges some of the most frequently used “evidence” in the case of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a confidential report obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

The Kroll report, which was commissioned by the public prosecutor of Saudi Arabia, challenges a major element cited in the CIA assessment that suggests Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The CIA reportedly produced evidence of 11 WhatsApp messages related to the killing of Khashoggi that were exchanged between the Crown Prince and Saud al-Qahtani, a former top Saudi advisor, on October 2.

CIA Director Gina Haspel also briefed senators on the “evidence” in December 2018. As a result, many senators, including Lindsey Graham and Richard Shelby issued several statements.

Additionally, US lawmakers are considering measures such as imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia, pulling out its support from the war in Yemen, and stopping weapons sales.

However, the CIA had said that they “lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order,” according to a previous report by the Wall Street Journal.

The New York City investigations firm was commissioned by the Saudi public prosecutor to prepare the report as part of the investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The report finds that none of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and al-Qahtani on October 2 concerned the journalist or his murder.

None of the messages “contained clear or identifiable references to Jamal Khashoggi,” Kroll said in the report, which was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

“Kroll did not identify indications of manipulation, deletion or alteration of the analyzed data,” according to the report.

The report claims that the 11 messages from the Crown Prince to al-Qahtani on that day cover relatively mundane topics, including a phone call with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, the translation of a speech, and a planned press release about solar energy.

“It seems that the CIA has evidence that an exchange took place, but no information on the content of the messages in that exchange,” a Saudi source familiar with the matter said.

“The fact that the crown prince was in contact with one of his top aides on the day of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing proves nothing,” the source added.

International investigation firms have been used in high profile cases in the past. The Clinton Foundation had hired the cyber security firm FireEye to examine its data after the alleged hacking of their network. The Democratic National Committee also hired another firm, CrowdStrike to investigate the hacking of its servers in 2016.

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