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An ex-Twitter employee was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison after spying for Saudi Arabia and handing over user info

ahmad abouammo twitter saudi arabiaAhmad Abouammo, an ex-Twitter employee, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after sharing confidential information with Saudi Officials.

REUTERS/Kate Munsch

  • Ex-Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo was sentenced to over 3 years in prison after spying for Saudi Arabia.
  • He was found guilty of sharing confidential information about Twitter users with Saudi officials.
  • Abouammo received a $42,000 watch and hundreds of thousands of dollars, in return. 

A former Twitter employee was sentenced to three and a half years in a US federal prison after being convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said. 

45-year-old Ahmad Abouammo was found guilty of sharing confidential information about Twitter users with Saudi officials, and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange, the attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors originally wanted to sentence him for over seven years “to deter others in the technology and social media industry from selling out the data of vulnerable users,” according to Reuters

“This case revealed that foreign governments will bribe insiders to obtain the user information that is collected and stored by our Silicon Valley social media companies,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. 

“In handing down today’s sentence, the Court emphasized that defendant shared the user information with a foreign government known for not tolerating dissidents, and he did so working with his even more culpable co-defendant who fled the country rather than face trial. This sentence sends a message to insiders with access to user information to safeguard it, particularly from repressive regimes, or risk significant time in prison.”

Angela Chuang, a public defender representing Abouammo did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment about the case, made outside of business hours. 

Abouammo, formerly Twitter’s head of media partnerships in the MENA region from 2013 to 2015, started receiving payments from a Saudi official close to the Saudi Royal Family in 2014. 

He shared the email addresses and phone numbers of over 6,000 Twitter users, some of who were critics of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia including the anonymous account “Mujtahidd” and prominent activist Omar Abdulaziz. 

Abouammo received a $42,000 luxury Hublot watch and two $100,000 wire transfers into a Lebanese bank account set up in the name of his father, in return. 

He was initially arrested in November 2019 and found guilty of money laundering, wire fraud, and falsifying records in a federal investigation. He was acquitted of five charges of wire fraud by a jury in August 2022, but found guilty of the remaining charges. 

Abouammo was convicted alongside another ex-Twitter employee Ali Alzabarah, who fled the US before being charged, per Reuters.  

“The government hasn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that he was an agent of Saudi Arabia, Chuang said in closing arguments at the trial, the Wall Street Journal reported. “We just spent the last two weeks in a glorified HR investigation,” she added.

Read the original article on Business Insider