An ex-Twitter staffer was convicted Tuesday on spying allegations after he shared private information of people behind anonymous accounts critical of the kingdom with an ally of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A jury found Ahmad Abouammo guilty on six charges: two counts of money laundering; two counts of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud; a count on destruction, alteration or falsification of records; and a final count on acting as a foreign agent for the Saudis without notice, according to The New York Times.
Abouammo, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Lebanon, worked at the San Francisco-based social media platform from 2013 to 2015 as a media partnerships manager responsible for the Middle East and North Africa region.
During that time, Abouammo shared confidential details with a close adviser to the crown prince about Twitter users whose accounts either criticized or were embarrassing to the Saudi royal family and the kingdom. This information included personal email addresses and telephone numbers, according to the indictment.
In exchange for his services, Abouammo received a watch worth at least $20,000 from the Saudis but failed to act in accordance with Twitter’s policy requiring employees to notify their manager and the vice president of human resources for any gift exceeding $100, and then return it.
The Saudi adviser also transferred $100,000 into a Lebanese bank account linked to Abouammo’s family.
Abouammo resigned from Twitter in May 2015 but received an additional $200,000 in the following eight months for facilitating Saudi requests.
Prior to his resignation, Abouammo introduced Ali Alzabarah — another defendant named in the investigation and a Saudi citizen who worked for Twitter — to the Saudi official who also helped the kingdom with its requests.
Abouammo was arrested in Seattle in 2019.
Alzabarah reportedly fled to Saudi Arabia after he was confronted by Twitter and placed on administrative leave following his unauthorized work for the Saudis.
Despite its poor human rights record, which has drawn the condemnation of multiple U.S. officials, Saudi Arabia continues to insert itself into American life. Last month, former President Donald Trump’s New Jersey golf course hosted a controversial Saudi-sponsored golf tournament. The tournament has been criticized as “sport washing” for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamaal Khashoggi and the Saudis’ involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
U.S. intelligence agencies said the crown prince, often referred to as MBS, was behind the operation to kill Khashoggi.
Survivors and families of the victims of 9/11 called on Trump to refuse to host the tournament following an FBI investigation that revealed several contacts and phone calls between Saudi officials and the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks.
President Joe Biden visited the kingdom in July and gave the crown prince a fist bump despite previously claiming he would only talk to King Salman.
Prior to traveling to Saudi Arabia, Biden wrote a rare opinion piece for the Washington Post explaining the reasons behind his trip.
“A more secure and integrated Middle East benefits Americans in many ways. Its waterways are essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on,” Biden wrote.
He continued: “Its energy resources are vital for mitigating the impact on global supplies of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”