Did Qatar spy on FIFA to win hosting bid for 2022 World Cup?
Qatar–Yes, according to an investigation conducted by The Associated Press. Qatar, a tiny but wealthy Arab nation, has spied on FIFA officials for years through a former CIA officer to win and hold on to hosting the 2022 World Cup tournament.
The investigation conducted by AP found out that Qatar managed to get hosting rights of soccer World Cup by hiring a former CIA officer and turned private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on soccer officials and rival bid teams. Qatar, one of the wealthiest nations, didn’t want to lose the chance of coming on a global platform considering the World Cup being one of most popular sports tournament globally. Chalker also reportedly worked in years after 2010 when Qatar was picked as 2022 World Cup host, to keep tab on Qatar’s critics in the world of soccer. AP’s investigation included interviews with Chalker’s former associates, and review of emails, invoices, contracts as well as business documents.
This can be a worrying finding for Washington as increasingly former US intelligence officers have started working with foreign governments with human rights violations records.
The investigation found that surveillance under Chalker included an undercover photojournalist who kept a tab on rival bidding; setting up a Facebook honeypot where an attractive woman contacted the target online and got close to him. Chalker’s operatives also obtained cell phone call logs of at least one top FIFA official before the voting was done in 2010, investigation concluded.
Government of Qatar and FIFA officials have not responded to the investigation finding. Chalker too has declined requests to interview or comment on his links to the Qatari government.
Chalker worked as an operations officer with CIA for five years. His work typically was focused dealing with recruiting assets, to spy on behalf of the US, while working undercover. This profile was quite attractive to the Qatari officials, as noted by former associates. “That was part of his mystique. All these young wealthy Qataris are playing spy games with this guy and he’s selling them,” said one former associate.
As Qatar was announced winner of the World Cup hosting bid, it came as a shocker to the world but was celebrated in the country and region. For long, the country’s win has been shadowed by allegations of corruption. Last year, US officials had claimed that bribes were paid off to the FIFA executive committee members to vote in favor of Qatar.