Former Twitter employee sentenced to 42 months for accepting Saudi bribes for user information
A former Twitter employee was sentenced to 42 months in prison on Thursday after he was convicted of accepting bribes from a Saudi Arabian official in exchange for providing the kingdom with user information from the platform.
Ahmad Abouammo, who worked as a media partnership manager for Twitter’s Middle East and North Africa region, met with a close adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on multiple occasions, accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts as he provided information about Saudi dissidents’ Twitter accounts, according to court documents.
A jury in August found Abouammo guilty of acting as a foreign agent without notice, money laundering and falsifying records as well as wire fraud and honest services fraud. He was found not guilty on five other counts of wire fraud and honest services fraud.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds wrote in a statement. “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.”
Saudi Arabia has received condemnations from the international community for its treatment of dissidents, which especially rose to prominence following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist. U.S. intelligence has concluded Khashoggi’s killing was conducted at the orders of the crown prince.
At one meeting in London in late 2014, court documents show Abouammo received a Hublot watch that he later said was valued at $42,000.
Days later, Abouammo sent the Saudi adviser a dossier on the account of a Saudi dissident who tweets about alleged corruption in the kingdom’s royal family under a pseudonym, according to court documents.
“Mr. Abouammo violated the trust placed on him to protect the privacy of individuals living in the US by giving their personal information to a foreign power for profit,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen. “His conduct was made all the more egregious by the fact that the information was intended to deny US persons of their lawful rights.”
After the London meeting, court documents show Abouammo proceeded to access private information about other Twitter accounts and communicate with the Saudi official.
He laundered a $100,000 payment from the official into the U.S. in 2015, and when interviewed by FBI agents in October 2018 about the scheme, Abouammo provided false information about one payment he received from the official, according to court documents.
The Hill has reached out to Abouammo’s attorney for comment.
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