Qatar deploys former spies to thwart criticism of Germany’s World Cup

Diez, Germany (AP) — Qatar has paid more than $ 10 million to a company with former CIA operatives to silence the criticism of German football chiefs for hosting the World Cup 2022 in wealthy Arab countries. rice field. Related. The press was found.

A multi-year secret and influential operation, dubbed “Project Riverbed,” is a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee and candid the 2010 decision to award Qatar the most popular sports tournament. According to internal records reviewed by AP, it targeted Theotsvanziger, the president of the German Football Association, who criticized the planet.

“It’s very strange to be involved in sports, to be obsessed with, followed and influenced by the values ​​of sports,” Zwanziger told AP in an interview last week.

The Qatar World Cup, scheduled to begin in November, has long been hurt by allegations of corruption and misconduct. In 2020, US prosecutors said bribes were paid to members of the FIFA Executive Committee to vote. Qatar denied cheating.

The document reviewed by AP provides new details on Qatar’s efforts to win and maintain tournaments, especially the country’s efforts with former CIA officer Kevin Chalker and his company Global Risk Advisors. These documents are based on previous AP reports on Chalker’s work in Qatar.

Qatari authorities did not respond to requests for comment.

In a statement, Chalker acknowledged that GRA had worked on the Riverbed project, simply as “a media surveillance project with internships and supervised by full-time employees responsible for viewing and summarizing press articles. did.

“The AP report in this article is based on false information from unidentified sources,” Chalker’s statement said.

David Wells, a spokesman for Chalker, wasn’t free to say who the client of the Riverbed project was, and provided other details such as how long he was doing business and the names of the employees who worked there. I couldn’t even do it. Brian Ascher, Chalker’s lawyer, said Zwanziger had never been the subject of a secret GRA impact campaign.

Records reviewed by AP show that this is not the case.

“The main purpose of the Riverbed project was to neutralize the effectiveness of Theo Zwanziger’s criticism of the Qatar 2022 World Cup and its attempt to force FIFA to withdraw the World Cup from Qatar,” PA reviews. The GRA document said.

AP reviewed hundreds of pages of documents from Chalker’s company, including final reports, notes, and budget documents. Several sources with authorized permissions have provided documentation to the AP. Sources said they were concerned about Charkar’s work in Qatar and demanded anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The AP has taken several steps to verify the authenticity of the document. This can be done by looking at the details of different documents from different sources, such as the former Chalker Associate, or by looking at the metadata or digital history (if available) of the electronic document, who created the document and when. Includes checking.

Elliott Broidy, a former fundraiser for former US President Donald Trump, has sued Charkar for conducting extensive hacking and espionage under the command of Qatar. Broidi claimed in court documents that Chalker and GRA targeted Zwanziger in a secret influence campaign as described in a document reviewed by AP. Chalker’s legal team claimed that the proceedings had no merit, and the judge dismissed Broidy’s general complaints, leaving the door open for the proceedings to continue.

According to a report summarizing Riverbed’s efforts, Project Riverbed was run from January 2012 to mid-2014 and “traditionally targets individuals within Qatar’s Zwanziger influence and changes Qatar’s emotions. We made good use of the complex trading of intelligence. ” Review by AP.

This has led to the creation of an “influencer network” of people close to German football managers who have expressed their support for Qatar, the host of the World Cup. To do this, GRA sends “source” or “disposable” to influencers in ways they don’t think are collaborative messaging campaigns, according to internal documents.

“The interaction has always delivered a consistent message. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was good for business, connecting the Middle East and the West, and good for the world,” the report said. .. GRA states in its report that there were “thousands” of such interactions with the Zwanziger Network.

According to GRA records, the Riverbed project was initially approved with a budget of $ 27 million, indicating that Qatar was late in payment and could not provide all the funding.

Despite budget constraints, GRA said Riverbed was successful.

“Zwanziger now raises international awareness of the situation of migrant workers in Qatar and promotes a comprehensive reform of Qatar’s human and workers’ rights, which should maintain the 2022 World Cup. I believe that, “GRA said in a summary.

The company was not correct.

In a radio interview with a German broadcaster in June 2015, a year after the completion of “Project Riverbed,” Zwanziger reiterated his claim that Qatar was “the gun of football in the world.”

He urged the Qatar Football Association to file a civil suit against Zwanjiger to prevent him from making such comments in the future. The proceeding was dismissed by the Düsseldorf District Court, which ruled that Zwanziger had the right to freedom of expression.

Zwanziger then faced further legal issues when he clashed with members of the World Cup Organizing Committee in Germany in 2006. Corruption investigation in Frankfurt and Switzerland. Zwanziger denied cheating and accused Swiss prosecutors of deliberately misrepresenting the evidence in August 2019. The Swiss trial ended in April 2020 without a judgment.

Zwanziger said it is now convincing to know that he was the target of a failed operations campaign.

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Suderman reported from Richmond, Virginia.