Former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty Tuesday of spying and money laundering on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Abouammo, alongside two others, on July 28, 2020, for using his position at Twitter to acquire information about Twitter users, which he then passed onto the Saudi Royal Family, in exchange for gifts ranging from a $20,000 watch to $100,000 wire transfers, the indictment states. The jury found Abouammo guilty of acting as an unregistered agent of the Saudi government, but excused him from the charges he shared with co-worker Ali Alzabarah, who is charged with continuing the scheme after Abouammo left Twitter in May 2015, Courthouse News reported Tuesday.
“They paid for a mole,” said prosecutor Eric Cheng in last week’s closing arguments, noting that Abouammo was paid in bribes three times his salary, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We all know that kind of money is not for nothing.”
Abuoammo’s job with Twitter was to manage media for high-profile users in the Middle East and North Africa, the WSJ reported. Abouammo was found guilty of money laundering, wire fraud and the falsification of records in addition to the charge of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, the WSJ reported.
In exchange for his work on behalf of the Saudi government, he was gifted a luxury watch, and three $100,000 dollar payments were wired to a bank account in his father’s name in Lebanon, Courthouse News reported.
Ahmad Abouammo, the ex-Twitter employee accused of spying for Saudi Arabia, received this watch from a Saudi official. He falsely described it to the FBI as “plasticky” and “junky,” while knowing he had tried to sell it for $20,000. pic.twitter.com/SNiIvFfAN2
— Runa Sandvik (@runasand) August 1, 2022
The indictment also claims that Abouammo lied about the value of his watch, as well as the nature of the wire transfers, when confronted by Twitter.
Abuoamma was arrested in 2019 in Seattle, after working briefly at Amazon, according to The New York Times. Abouammo was free on bail but traveled to the trial in San Francisco, the NYT reported.
The government claims that the scheme was orchestrated by Bader Binaskar who was a rising star in the Saudi government at the time, according to the WSJ. Binaskar is not named in the indictment.
Alzabarah fled to Saudi Arabia when confronted by Twitter’s management, the NYT reported.
One account targeted by Abouammo belongs to Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who has sued Twitter over the incident, the NYT reported. Abdulaziz’s lawyers said that the dissident’s friends and family who did not manage to escape Saudi Arabia were imprisoned in an attempt to “torture [Abdulaziz] by proxy,” who now lives in Canada in exile, according to the NYT.
The conviction of Abouammo is part of the DOJ’s ongoing efforts to investigate undisclosed foreign agents, of which the DOJ had investigated only seven cases from 1966 until 2015.
Neither the DOJ nor Twitter immediately responded to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.
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