A former Twitter employee was convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia

SAN FRANCISCO — A former Twitter employee was indicted by a federal jury on Tuesday on six counts related to spying on the company’s users for Saudi Arabia.

While at Twitter, Ahmad Abuamo, 44, managed media partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa. He built relationships with prominent figures in the region, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars and an expensive watch from Mohammed bin Salman, a top adviser to the Saudi crown prince. In return, prosecutors said, he shared dissidents’ personal user information with Saudi officials.

A jury convicted Mr. Abuamo of two counts of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two one count of money laundering, one count of falsifying records and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without properly disclosing that work. It found Mr. Abuamo not guilty of five counts of television fraud or conspiracy to commit television fraud.

Mr Abuamo’s trial ended on Thursday and the jury of six men and five women took 17 hours to reach their verdict.

Mr. Abuamo was arrested in 2019. Ali Alzabara, another former Twitter employee also accused in the scheme, fled the country before he could be arrested. Several of the charges on which Mr. Abuamo was acquitted related to communications between Mr. Alzabara and Saudi officials, suggesting that the jury was not convinced that Mr. Abuamo influenced the actions of his employee.

Prosecutors described Mr. Abuammo as a mogul who sold Saudi Arabia access to private customer information. Saudi officials paid Mr. Abuamo to obtain and share information about political dissidents and other Twitter users, prosecutors said.

“Alas. Greed. Lies. You’ve heard that story told in evidence here in this courtroom,” said Eric Cheng, an assistant U.S. attorney, during closing arguments.

Mr Abuamo’s lawyers described him as just a Twitter employee doing his job. Prosecutors did not connect Mr. Abuamo’s access to information and receiving payments to the actual sharing of that information, his lawyers said.

“Even if you think Mr. Abuamo may or may not have done it, you have to vote not guilty,” said Angela Chuang, the federal public defender who represents Mr. Abuamo and the lead attorney in the case, during closing statements.

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