A New York Times report shed new light on how The National Enquirer tabloid came to possess intimate photos of Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.
The report suggests that she sent them to her brother, Michael, who sold them to The National Enquirer. Bezos later said they were used to extort him.
The Times cited four unnamed sources and a written contract to support its claim.
The paper said its reporting frustrates the widespread suggestion that Saudi Arabia had a role leaking the images.
Intimate photos of Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez came into the possession of The National Enquirer tabloid via her brother, according to The New York Times.
According to the newspaper, Sanchez sent the images to her brother Michael, who received $200,000 upon signing a contract granting the Enquirer's parent company exclusive rights to them.
The deal was the prelude to the story of Bezos' relationship becoming public, which was followed by Bezos and his wife divorcing.
The Times said it learned of how the photos were transmitted via four unnamed sources, and a written contract between Michael Sanchez and American Media Inc., which publishes the Enquirer.
Sanchez repeatedly denied sharing "penis photos" with AMI in exchanges with Business Insider last year, but evaded answering questions about whether he had leaked messages obtained by the National Enquirer.
The strange saga took a twist this week after a forensic analysis of Bezos' phone, first reported on by The Guardian, found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked into Bezos' phone with spyware eight months before the Enquirer piece.
It led to speculation that Saudi Arabia had a role in getting the compromising photos to the Enquirer. But the Times's reporting offered a more prosaic route — via Sanchez and her brother — and said a definitive Saudi connection to the Enquirer's reporting has yet to be proved.
In a statement to The Times, AMI called Michael Sanchez the "single source" for their reporting.
"The single source of our reporting has been well documented," AMI said. "In September of 2018, Michael Sanchez began providing all materials and information to our reporters."
"Any suggestion that a third party was involved in or in any way influenced our reporting is false."
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