One of Jamal Khashoggi’s killers told a superior over the phone to “tell your boss” — whom US intelligence officials believe meant Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — that “the deed was done” shortly after the journalist was dead, The New York Times reported.
The conversation appeared in an audio recording collected by Turkish intelligence of Khashoggi’s last moments.
Intelligence officials identified the caller as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of the 15 Saudis dispatched to Istanbul to carry out the operation, The Times reported, citing three people familiar with the recording.
Turkish intelligence agents believe that Mutreb, a major general in the Saudi military, had been calling one of Crown Prince Mohammed’s aides, The Times reported.
While the identity of “your boss” was not named, US intelligence believes that it referred to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the newspaper added.
Saudi officials told The Times on Monday that the crown prince did not know about the killing, adding that “at no moment was there any reference to the mentioned phrase in the recordings.”
Riyadh has sought to distance its leadership, particularly the crown prince, from Khashoggi’s killing, despite a string of allegations implicating him in the killing. Reuters reported last month that one of Crown Prince Mohammed’s top henchmen directed the operation via Skype.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said over the weekend that he had “passed on” the tape to the US, UK, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, but what that means remains unclear.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country’s intelligence agents heard the recording, but France said it never received it. Britain and Germany declined to comment.
CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly heard the recording during a visit to Ankara last month. However, she was not allowed to bring it back to the US, The Times reported on Monday.
The audio also features Khashoggi telling his killers “I’m suffocating” and “Take this bag off my head” right before he died, a journalist with Turkey’s state-run Daily Sabah newspaper told Al Jazeera.