Twitter exec convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia

45
2
Twitter exec convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia

A former Twitter manager who was accused of spying for Saudi Arabia was convicted on Tuesday of six criminal counts, including acting as an agent for the country and trying to disguise a payment from an official tied to Saudi Arabia's royal family.

Ahmad Abouammo, a US-Lebanese citizen who helped oversee relationships with reporters and celebrities in the Middle East and North Africa, was found guilty of a 2 -- 1 2 week trial in San Francisco federal court.

Jurors acquitted him on five of the 11 counts he faced.

Abouammo, a close adviser to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recruited Abouammo to hack up personal information about Saudi dissidents through his insider knowledge, according to the Prosecutors.

The accounts included Mujtahidd, a pseudonym for a political agitator who gained millions of followers on Twitter in the Arab Spring uprisings by accusing the Saudi royal family of corruption and other misdeeds. Prosecutors said Abouammo received $300,000 and a $20,000 luxury watch from Al-Asaker and concealed the money by depositing it in a relative's account in Lebanon and wired it to his own account in the United States. Defense lawyers argued that the work Abouammo did on Twitter was simply part of his job. Abouammo was also convicted of wire fraud and honest services fraud, money laundering and a conspiracy charge. The jury found that Abouammo violated a sacred trust to keep private personal information from Twitter's customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government, according to the US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in San Francisco. Ali Alzabarah, a former colleague of Abouammo, was accused of accessing Twitter accounts on behalf of Saudi Arabia and leaving the United States before being charged. Al-Asaker, Saudi's crown prince and Twitter are not among the defendants.