Football World Cup: Qatar deploys ex-spies to blunt German’s FIFA World Cup criticism

Theo Zwanziger was among his sport’s most protruding critics of the decision to award the FIFA World Cup 2022 to Qatar. He publicly criticized the energy-rich Gulf nation’s human rights best. He questioned the knowledge of staging the world’s most popular sporting event Qatar Football World Cup in the searing desert heat.

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“The countless wealth of this small country of Qatar binges almost like cancer finished football and sport, Zwanziger once supposed. A member of FIFA’s supervisory committee, he urged world soccer’s main body to reverse its 2010 choice”.

The Qatari government was so worried by Zwanziger’s criticism that it took action. It rewarded more than $10 million to a company staffed by former CIA workers for a multi-year covert influence operation codenamed Project Riverbed, rendering to internal company leaflets reviewed by The Associated Press. The annals designate that the goal of the operation was to use spycraft to silence Zwanziger. It was unsuccessful.

“It’s a very, very strange sensation when you’re complex in sport and dedicated to the values of sport, to be followed and prejudiced,” Zwanziger expressed the AP in a talk last week.

The Qatar Football World Cup, now scheduled to start in November, is the conclusion of more than a dozen years of exertion and untold billions expended to help propel the tiny desert nation onto the world stage. The effort has long been determined by allegations of corruption and crime. U.S. prosecutors said in 2020 that bribes were salaried to FIFA executive committee members to gain their votes. Qatar has starved any wrongdoing.

Documents studied by AP provide new particulars about Qatar’s labors to win and hold onto the tournament FIFA World Cup, exactly the country’s work with former CIA officer Kevin Chalker and company, Global Risk Mentors. The documents build on AP’s earlier writing about Chalker’s work for Qatar.

Qatari officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Chalker recognized in a statement that GRA did work on a Project Riverbed, but supposed it was only “a media nursing project operated by interns and oversaw by one full-time employee, who was accountable for analysis and summarizing news articles.”

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“The AP’s journalism for this article is based on untrue information from unidentified sources,” Chalker’s statement supposed.

Chalker’s orator David Wells supposed he was not at liberty to say who the client was for Project Riverbed or offer other facts, like how long it ran or the name of the employees who worked on it. Chalker’s attorney, Brian Ascher, supposed Zwanziger was never the subject of a covert effect campaign by GRA.

The records studied by AP indicate otherwise.

“The primary impartial of Project Riverbed was to deactivate the effectiveness of Theo Zwanziger’s criticism of the Qatar World Cup 2022 and his efforts to compel FIFA to take the Football World Cup from Qatar,” a GRA document studied by the AP supposed.

The AP studied hundreds of pages of documents from Chalker’s firms, counting a final report, memos, and cheap documents. Multiple sources with official access provided the documents to the AP. The sources supposed they were troubled by Chalker’s work for Qatar and demanded anonymity because they dreaded retaliation.

The AP took numerous steps to confirm the documents’ validity. That includes settling details of various documents with diverse sources, such as former Chalker associates, and exploratory electronic documents’ metadata, or digital history, where obtainable, to settle who made the documents and when.

The Riverbed documents highpoint the muscular spying efforts that secluded workers like Chalker can deliver to wealthy countries like Qatar that lack a healthy intelligence agency of their own. It’s a trend that has encouraged some members of Congress to suggest new controls on what kind of work U.S. intellect officials can do post-retirement.

Elliott Broidy, a one-time campaigner for former U.S. President Donald Trump, issued Chalker and has suspected him of mounting an extensive hacking and spying campaign at Qatar’s direction. Broidy has alleged in court filings that Chalker and GRA beleaguered Zwanziger with a covert influence campaign like the one labeled in the documents studied by the AP. Chalker’s legal side has contended the lawsuit is meritless, and a judge discharged Broidy’s overall grievance, while sendoff the door opens for the case to continue.

Project Riverbed ran from January 2012 to mid-2014 and “positively employed complex traditional intellect tradecraft to target folks within Zwanziger’s circle of effect and modify sentiment related with the Qatar Football World Cup,” rendering to one document brief the Riverbed effort studied by the AP.

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In realism, this amounted to creating an influencer network made up of people close to the German soccer official who would pass on opinions to him that were promising toward Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup. To do this, GRA would send a source or casual to speak to the influencers in a way they would not doubt was a concerted messaging movement, according to internal documents.

“These numerous relations lasted seconds, minutes, or hours,” the report supposed.

“Irrespective of the time capitalized, the interaction always depicted a consistent message: the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar was good for business, transported together with the Middle East and the West, and was good for the world.”

GRA supposed in a report that there were thousands of these relations with Zwanziger’s network and that it working a multi-pronged method absorbed on four targets FIFA and its links, the German soccer federation, and connections, the international football community, and Zwanziger’s own family who would then innocently pass the pro-Qatar message on to Zwanziger.

“This is surely something that goes well beyond any politicization we expected,” Zwanziger’s lawyer, Hans-Jorg Metz, told the AP.

Given his key part in soccer’s governing bodies, Zwanziger was a ripe board. A lawyer by trade, he was highly appreciated for leading reforms of the German soccer federation, one of the biggest sports relations in the world.

When it came to the subject of Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup, he had strong feelings and did not hold back on distributing them, even going so far as to question the morals of FIFA bureaucrats amid claims of vote-buying and dishonesty.

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“I could never comprehend this decision. It’s one of the biggest errors ever made in sport,” Zwanziger supposed in a 2013 interview.

Zwanziger was not the first high-level FIFA official that was on the board of Qatar-funded spying. Chalker also helped supervise spying on former FIFA supervisory committee member Amos Adamu during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg, rendering to new records studied by the AP. For more know about Qatar World Cup Tickets click here.

That exertion complicated using multiple surveillance sides to follow and covertly photograph Adamu and people he met with for some days, the new records show. The effort also comprised procurement Adamu’s cell phone records and employing a hotel security guard and a local journalist as bases, the records show.

Adamu, who has twice been barred by FIFA for immoral conduct, declined to comment. Chalker is deprived of ever being complex in an exertion to spy on Adamu. For Project Riverbed, Chalker hired case officers and project managers in Germany and London, counting some who had before worked for the CIA, the documents show.

The GRA annals are full of opaque, florid language plucked from the pages of a spy novel: GRA would set up Cover for Action objects that could be used by GRA staff to work secret, as well as White and Black official and non-official offices to handle directorial tasks. Broidy has also unproven in his lawsuit that such efforts at subterfuge were used against Zwanziger.

GRA’s records said Project Riverbed was initially approved for a $27 million budget and that Qatar had been late with payments and did not provide all of the funds. The lack of money led to staff turnover and wasted expenditures, such as legal and administrative fees for setting up offices that were never charity, the documents say.

Despite the fiscal constraints, GRA supposed Riverbed was a success.

The exclusive report said the project had softened Zwanziger’s criticism and changed the German lawyer’s sentiment to a point where he is no longer a threat to Qatar’s retention of the Qatar Football World Cup 2022.

“Zwanziger now trusts Qatar should retain the 2022 Qatar Football World Cup so that the international community will develop more awareness of migrant workers’ circumstances in Qatar and push for a wide reform of Qatari human and employees’ rights,” GRA speaks in its executive summary.

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“Riverbed concluded: we’ve now brought Zwanziger to our side. Secretly, of course, I never was,” Zwanziger supposed in the interview with AP.

Zwanziger had more legal problems later when he and members of the German 2006 FIFA World Cup organizing committee tackled corruption probes in Frankfurt and Switzerland. Zwanziger was deprived of any wrongdoing and in August 2019 accused Swiss prosecutors of deliberately misinterpreting evidence. The Swiss trial was over in April 2020 without a judgment.

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