SAN FRANCISCO: A former Twitter worker was found guilty of spying for Saudi officials keen to unmask critics on the platform.
Ahmad Abouammo was pronounced on Tuesday guilty on criminal counts including money laundering, fraud, and being an illegal agent of a foreign government, according to a copy of the verdict.
Prosecutors in federal court in San Francisco told jurors that Abouammo sold Twitter user information for cash and an expensive watch some seven years ago.
His defence team contended that he did nothing more than accept gifts from free-spending Saudis for simply doing his client management job.
“The evidence shows that, for a price and thinking no one was watching, the defendant sold his position to an insider of the crown prince,” US prosecutor Colin Sampson said in final remarks to the jury.
Defence attorney Angela Chuang countered that while there certainly appeared to be a conspiracy to get revealing information about Saudi critics from Twitter, prosecutors failed to prove Abouammo was part of it.
Abouammo quit Twitter in 2015 and took a job at e-commerce titan Amazon in Seattle, where he lives, according to court documents.
Jurors deliberated for three days before finding Abouammo guilty on six of the 11 charges against him.
Chuang conceded to the jury that Abouammo did violate Twitter employee rules by not telling the San Francisco-based company that he had received $100,000 in cash and a watch valued at more than $40,000 from someone close to the Saudi crown prince.
However, she downplayed the significance of the gift, saying it amounted to “pocket change” in Saudi culture known for generosity and lavish presents.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022