On Tuesday, a federal grand jury found a former Twitter worker guilty of espionage for Saudi Arabia and engaging in a money laundering operation.
Ahmad Abouammo, 44, was charged with wire fraud and functioning as a foreign agent. He was taken into custody in 2019. An expensive watch and thousands of dollars were allegedly exchanged for personal user data, per the Department of Justice.
BREAKING: Former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia.
While working at Twitter, he searched up users who criticized the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and shared that info with kingdom officials in exchange for $$$. https://t.co/QUygqW32VB
— Meghan Bobrowsky (@MeghanBobrowsky) August 9, 2022
According to Court House News, a public defender said during closing arguments that “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.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Abouammo worked for Twitter from 2013 to 2015, where he was responsible for managing the company’s relations with famous Middle Eastern and North African users. One charge each of bank fraud, money laundering, and document falsification was determined by the grand jury. Five more counts of wire fraud were dismissed as unfounded.
Prosecutors allege that while working at Twitter, he collected data about profiles that were antagonistic to the Saudi government and returned it to Saudi Arabia. Among the information he gathered were phone numbers and email addresses, according to reports.
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The defendants contended that the prosecution had failed to prove its case and that Abouammo was simply doing his job at Twitter. But the 11-person jury was unconvinced of the prosecution’s case.
Bader Binasaker, also identified as Alzabarah to Al Asaker, a prominent adviser to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, is accused by prosecutors of enlisting Abouammo in the plot. Prosecutors provided a record of Abouammo’s meetings with Binasaker, including a tour of Twitter’s offices in June 2014 that he reportedly gave the Saudi adviser, according to Court House News.
Following what is claimed to have been a tour, Binasaker is said to have presented Abouammo with a Hublot watch valued at approximately $40,000. The prosecution believes that Abouammo began receiving significant payments from Binasaker and subsequently deposited those payments into a bank account that had been opened in his father’s name in order to disguise the origin of the money.
Prosecutors allege that he transmitted private user information to the Saudi authorities while he was receiving wired payments. According to the Wall Street Journal, they have an estimate that he obtained data from more than 6,000 Twitter accounts while acting on behalf of the monarchy in 2015.
When the allegations were brought against Abouammo in 2019, he entered a not guilty plea and stuck to his guns. According to the news outlet, he was employed at Amazon at the time he was being charged with the crime. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen is going to be in charge of imposing his sentence on him.