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Examining CCTV Videos of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Connected to Khashoggi’s Disappearance

October 15, 2018

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

On October 8, a photograph spread throughout WhatsApp showing Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist living in Turkey, entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul through a rear entrance. He has not been seen since, with credible reports that he was either murdered or kidnapped by Saudi officials. Later, a video that this photograph was taken from was broadcast on Turkish television, showing that Khashoggi entered the consulate at 1:14 p.m on October 2, assuming the CCTV timestamp is correct. Khashoggi’s fiancee has confirmed that the man in the footage is indeed him.

Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert has geolocated this footage, verifying that it did indeed show the rear entrance of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A clearer map showing the location can be found in the New York Times’ timeline of Khashoggi’s disappearance, highlighting the rear entrance to the consulate.

Source: New York Times / Associated Press

During this video, a Mercedes Sprinter van is parked near the rear entrance, with a blurry license plate. Bellingcat’s Timmi Allen used a number of image analysis tools to determine the license plate number, similar to the methodology he used to identify the license plate of a vehicle near the site of Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet’s assassination, as detailed in the documentary “Killing Pavel.” The license plate number of this van is 34 CC 2342, which corresponds to the code for Istanbul (34) and vehicles used by consulates (CC).

While there has not been any evidence that this vehicle was involved in the disappearance of the Saudi journalist, its license plate further verifies the leaked CCTV video. However, there is another Mercedes vehicle — a Vito — that is allegedly involved with Khashoggi’s murder or kidnapping. This Mercedes Vito left the consulate and arrived at about 200 meters away at the Consulate General’s residence at 3:09pm, about two hours after Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate.

The license plate of this second van, the Mercedes Vito, is 34 CC 1865, with the same four digits and letters as the other van, being registered to an Istanbul consulate.

Turkish media reported that this same van “rehearsed” its path between the consulate and Consulate General’s residence the day before Khashoggi’s disappearance, indicating that this van was used to transport Khashoggi (either alive or dead) or other items related to his possible murder.

With Istanbul being one of the world’s largest and connected cities, there is likely undiscovered digital evidence showing these two vans around the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance and afterwards. Some of these digital sources include user-generated content (uploaded videos, photographs, and witness accounts from social networks and other sharing platforms), public access photographs and videos (such as webcams or livefeeds of traffic), and, perhaps, even satellite imagery.

There have been a number of successful and interesting crowdsourcing campaigns to gather information on the Khashoggi disappearance, and Bellingcat has been fortunate to have a number of eagle-eyed and creative followers who have uncovered information on other topics, such as with Europol’s “Stop Child Abuse” program. If you have findings related to the Khashoggi disappearance — especially with the vans used by the Saudi consulate in Istanbul — tweet at us (here), message us on Facebook (here), or email us (here), and we will amplify and gather contributions across our social media platforms.

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  1. Grassy knee

    Interesting. Not less than one minute ago the link worked and now Google says can’t link to that address??? Unsupported link. Just tried again same result.? Now it is working again?? This time showing cordoned off areas in the photo. Just tried again no link again. Now it is working again but no cordoned off areas in the photo??? Why the downtime. Why the image change.

  2. Von Zieten

    When is the identification of the saudi suspects coming? It appears you are working harder when investigating against Russia.

    • Jeroen

      Well well,
      welcome to “Prussian Army”,
      or is it not another but just the same troll army?

      It took BC 20 days to identify the first Skripal suspect, and 33 days to identify the second, Jamal Khashoggi disappeared October 2, so 17 days ago.

      The WP already identified all 15 of them.

      But all this is not of any interest to you “Von Zieten”,
      your interest ist to smear BC isn’t it?

      • Germann Arlington

        “It took BC 20 days to identify the first Skripal suspect”
        I won’t be so sure about that.
        British police have searched Skripal’s assassins hotel in May 2018, they must have known their identities by then.

        I am not absolutely sure what was the role allocated to Bellingcat but it did not need to investigate too much…

      • Germann Arlington

        “It took BC 20 days to identify the first Skripal suspect”
        I won’t be so sure about that.
        British police have searched Skripal’s assassins hotel in May 2018, they must have known their identities by then.

        It would have taken British Intelligence Agencies about 3 days to sort through 10 days of CCTV footage and identify the suspects (using facial recognition software and 10 office computers).

        I am not absolutely sure what was the role allocated to Bellingcat but it did not need to investigate too much…

        • Jeroen

          You are not, but “I am absolutely sure” it was the G(R)U itself who “leaked” all that info to BC.
          And we are sure that the only reason you are here is to smear BC also.
          Spasiba for clarifying that.

          • antirus

            so all critical questions are labelled with “Russian troll” and “trying to smear BC” labels. seems that BC is not happy to take critical comments….

          • Jeroen

            BC welcomes critical minds and being challenced to improve the quality of its research.
            But there are plain differences between real persons being critical and orchestrated anti-BC smearing programs by organisations like for example the “Internet Research Agency”, paying trolls to do so, and challenging others to join doing so.

            This poster calling himself “antirus” ironically just gave him or herself a example how to smear BC.

        • Grubbie

          More of the crazy logic of obvious $10 A post Putin trolls.At least you are now admitting that Bellingcat are so efficient at finding out the truth that you expect them to be first every time with everything!
          Maybe BC shouldn’t spend to much time and money on this job because it sounds like Turkey is releasing or leaking the identities faster than open source can work it’s magic.

          • Hussar

            By entertaining and responding to the commentary of the “Prussian army” you inadvertently change the focus to their suject matter. Their agenda is to paint BC as a biased vehicle solely for attacking Russia, just in case any Russian civilians happen upon this content. If BC is seen as having a genuine broader human rights agenda, the Russian propaganda machine has a problem. Long story short, best not to engage ‘Von Zeitens’ in off topic comments IMO.

          • brass

            or maybe because BC and and sponsors are not interested in getting to the bottom of it and will be happy to play it down for the sake of ties with KSA?

          • Jeroen

            or maybe you are just smearing BC brass?
            BC has written critical pieces on KSA before but you did not notice that, or do not care about, as long as you just can smear?

  3. Andreas

    06.07.2007 – 293944 – Licence Plates for Diplomatic/Consular Mission Personnel

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey presents its compliments to all foreign missions accredited to Turkey and with reference to its Note Verbal dated 7 October 2005, No.PDGY/420888, has the honour to inform them that, according to the amendment of regulation on highways traffic, dated May 18, 2007 (Published in Official Gazette No:26526), only below mentioned letter groups will be allocated for foreign missions and their staff.

    1. “CD” plates (green numbers on white backround) for Embassies, Representations of International Organizations and Permanent Representations and staff. (holders of first category ID cards)

    2. “CC” plates (white numbers on green backround) for Consulates General and staff. (holders of first category ID cards)

    3-. “CM” plates (green numbers on white background) for administrative and technical staff of the Embassies and for the over-quata vehicles of the quota applied Embassies.

    4. “CG” plates (green numbers on white backround) for administrative and technical staff of the Consulates General and the over-quota vehicles of the quota-applied Consulates General.

    The letter groups (CA to CZ and B) will no longer be valid as of January 1, 2010 and will be assigned to civilian cars. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey kindly requests all foreign missions accredited to Turkey to change licence plates of their cars in accordance with this new arrangement before January 1, 2010, and avails itself of this opportunity to renew the assurances of its high consideration.

    Ankara, July 6, 2007

    ALL FOREIGN MISSIONS ACCREDITED TO TURKEY—293944-_-licence-plates-for-diplomatic_consular-mission-personnel.en.mfa

  4. Taibhse

    It is to be expected that with Bellingcat’s raised profile, it will be the target for concerted disinformation campaigns by assets from the Internet Research Agency, the Kingdom, and any other Government intelligence agencies with a vested interest in any particular news event, going forward.

  5. Grubbie

    Previously quite friendly with the Saudi regime and not that strongly critical.Known to be worried about entering the embassy why would he enter through the back door and take such a great risk to get married?One possibility is that he was blackmailing the Saudi royal family. What information might he have?The Saudi elite are known to use huge arms deals to distribute cash amongst themselves and others, this is how Mark Thatcher became wealthy whilst his mum was prime minister. What is the likelihood of Trump managing to keep his paws out of the till when negotiating a $110 billion arms deal?
    I realise that this is how conspiracy theories start,but its quite plausible isn’t it?

  6. Mal

    Wow, a lot of hate for BC for pointing out the facts plain an simple. Good work, keep going…

  7. Tracey Thakore

    I think I read in The British press he was lured to the hotel with or by a woman.
    He apparently was watched in another room.


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