November 6, 2022

From Financing ISIS Terrorists To Hosting The World Cup

An excerpt from, "‘Project Merciless’: How Qatar Spied On The World Of Football In Switzerland" By Leo Eiholzer and Andreas Schmid, SRF Investigativ, SwissInfo, November 6, 2022:

Qatar orchestrated a large-scale and long-standing intelligence operation against FIFA officials with the help of former CIA operatives. Switzerland was a key theatre of operations. The highest echelons of the Qatari government were involved.

An espionage network working in secret. Intelligence agents planning on swaying world events in a covert operation. Hackers stealing controversial information. And an obscure client funding the entire project with hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the story of a global secret operation.

An investigation by Swiss media SRF’s investigative team, “SRF Investigativ”, shows the details of how the state of Qatar had officials of world football spied on. And how critics of the upcoming World Cup outside of FIFA were targeted as well.

A former CIA officer who spied on Qatar’s rivals to help the tiny Arab country land this year’s World Cup is now under FBI scrutiny and newly obtained documents show he offered clandestine services that went beyond soccer to try to influence U.S. policy, an Associated Press investigation found.

The monthslong FBI probe focuses on whether Kevin Chalker’s work for Qatar broke laws related to foreign lobbying, surveillance and exporting sensitive technologies and tradecraft, said two people with knowledge of the investigation who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss it.

Chalker’s goal, AP found, was to burnish Qatar’s image among American decision makers while undermining critics who have accused the Persian Gulf monarchy of financing terrorists and other wrongdoing. Federal investigators have focused increasing scrutiny in recent years on Qatar’s influenceefforts, including those alleged to involve former U.S. national security officials.

AP’s reporting in the past year has detailed how Chalker and his company, Global Risk Advisors, sought to help Qatar host the 2022 World Cup by spying on soccer officials in rival countries. That included deploying a Facebook “honeypot” in which an attractive woman is used to get close to a target, having someone pose as a photojournalist to keep tabs on one nation’s bid and, after the decision was announced in 2010, waging a failed two-year campaign to get a top German soccer official to soften his criticism of Qatar.