A former employee of Twitter was found guilty on Tuesday by a federal grand jury of spying for Saudi Arabia and participating in a money-laundering scheme.
The 44-year-old Ahmad Abouammo was accused with wire fraud and acting as a foreign agent. The year 2019 saw his detention. According to the Department of Justice, personal user data was purportedly transferred for an expensive watch, thousands of dollars, and other items.
During closing arguments, a public defender remarked, “the government provided you with parts and pieces to form the picture they wanted you to perceive. They want you to disregard everything else and throw out what doesn’t fit their story.”
From 2013 until 2015, Abouammo was employed by Twitter, where he was in charge of overseeing the company’s relationships with well-known Middle Eastern and North African users. The grand jury decided on one charge for each of bank fraud, money laundering, and document falsification. Five further counts of wire fraud were thrown out for lack of evidence.
Authorities claim that when he was employed by Twitter, he gathered information on user accounts that were critical of the Saudi government and sent it back to Saudi Arabia. Phone numbers and email addresses were reportedly among the details he collected.
The defendants argued that Abouammo was only carrying out his duties as a Twitter employee and that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. But the prosecution’s argument did not persuade the 11-person jury.
Prosecutors accuse Bader Binasaker, also known as Alzabarah to Al Asaker, a well-known advisor to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, of recruiting Abouammo for the scheme. Abouammo reportedly offered the Saudi advisor a tour of Twitter’s offices in June 2014 during one of their meetings, according to a record of those meetings supplied by the prosecution.
He is accused of sending sensitive user data to the Saudi government while he was receiving wire transfers, according to the prosecution. The Wall Street Journal estimates that in 2015, while working for the monarchy, he got information from more than 6,000 Twitter accounts.