On Tuesday, a former Twitter employee was found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia after allegedly handing over the personal information of users who criticized the kingdom to a Saudi official close to the royal family. Ahmad Abouammo, a Twitter employee from 2013 to 2015, was found guilty of charges including acting as a Saudi Arabian agent, money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and falsifying records. He was found not guilty on five other counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors claimed that Abouammo, a dual US-Lebanese citizen, gained access to the email addresses and phone numbers of accounts that criticized the Saudi government and then provided those details to a Saudi official in exchange for large sums of money. Mujtahidd, an anonymous account once described as “the Saudi version of Wikileaks,” is one of the users whose data Abouammo allegedly accessed. Abouammo was given a luxury watch worth more than $40,000 in exchange for sharing that information with a Saudi official affiliated with the royal family, and three $100,000 payments were wired to a Lebanese bank account in his father’s name. According to court documents, Abouammo did not notify his superiors about the watch, as required by Twitter policies at the time. Prosecutors claimed that when confronted by FBI agents at his Seattle home in 2018, Abouammo lied, claiming that the watch was only worth $500 and that the last $100,000 wire was for legitimate freelance consulting work. At the start of the trial last month, Assistant US Attorney Colin Sampson told the jury that the watch was a “down payment” for future spying. “There were conditions attached to the money.” “That luxury watch was not free,” prosecutor Eric Cheng said last week in closing remarks. “The kingdom had finally found its Twitter insider.” According to Abouammo’s attorneys, the gifts were simply tokens of appreciation for his work as a media partnerships manager at Twitter, where he assisted in the verification of Saudi royal family accounts. Angela Chuang, a defense attorney, downplayed the significance of the gifts, calling them “pocket change” in a culture known for generosity and lavish gifts. Spying in the United States The kingdom was accused of spying in America for the first time in this case. Prosecutors accused Abouammo and former Twitter employee Ali Alzabarah of being enlisted by Saudi officials between late 2014 and early 2015 to obtain private information on accounts posting anti-Riyadh messages. Prosecutors claimed that the former Twitter employees could use their credentials to obtain email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and other private information in order to identify people behind anonymous accounts. A third man named in the complaint, Saudi citizen Ahmed Al-Mutairi, was accused of acting as an intermediary for the Saudi royal family. Officials believe Alzabarah gave the Saudi government more than 6,000 users’ personal information in 2015. Alzabarah fled the United States in December 2015 after Twitter management confronted him, evading FBI scrutiny and boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia with his wife and child, where he took a job at the Misk Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to an FBI statement, Alzabarah, a Saudi national, is being sought on a charge of failing to register in the United States as an agent of a foreign government, as required by US law. Mutairi is also suspected of returning to Saudi Arabia. Both men have been served with arrest warrants by the FBI. In court, Chuang claimed that prosecutors were attempting to punish Abouammo for Alzabarah’s actions. Abouammo did not respond to the verdict. He is due back in court on Wednesday for a hearing and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.