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By Tony Attwood
This article updated 13 March to correct two errors in terms of locations. Apologies for the errors,
According to the Swiss newspaper Le Matin (but not reported in the UK) meetings between Fifa’s former Attorney General Michael Lauber and Gianni Infantino were hacked into by Qatar. Michael Lauber was responsible for investigating corruption in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Qatar has rejected these accusations, while Mr. Lauber’s lawyer told the Zurich weekly that his client did not know he was spied on. It is not suggested that Qatar used the information it got for blackmail, but rather that this was part of a general spying operation carried out by Qatar in order to track the progress of its ultimately successful bid to host the World cup
According to “NZZ Am Sonntag“, Qatar’s activists specifically hid microphones within the location of an informal meeting held on 16 June 2017 in Bern – something it was able to do because the meeting was held at the luxurious Hotel Schweizerhof, which in high placed Qataris have owned since 2009, and in fact is where the embassy of Qatar in Switzerland is based.
Fifa officials must have known who owned the building, and must have known of Qatar’s reputation for spying on meetings – and yet they agreed to meet there.
The report states that after the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar on 2 December 2010, Qatar feared that it would lose the right to organize the competition, because of the accusations of corruption and human rights violations that even then were widely circulating.
In response, Qatar launched a spying operation on members of the Fifa committee involved in the world cup, employing former CIA agents, according to Swiss sources. The newspaper now running the story claims to have obtained “official secret documents that attest to this spying operation” at the Hotel Schweizerhof.
The newspaper also tells us that sources with knowledge of the case have described the operation, under cover of anonymity, claiming it had the codename “Project Matterhorn”.
According to these sources, the aim of this operation was to put pressure on the Attorney General of Switzerland to hide his contacts with Gianni Infantino from his superiors.
And indeed Michael Lauber was subsequently dismissed, in June 2019, from the investigation into a corruption scandal at FIFA because of his undeclared contacts in 2016 and 2017 with Infantino. He eventually resigned a year later in July 2020.
In one sense the story just adds a little more detail to the notion that the award of the world cup finals to Qatar and Qatar’s subsequent behaviour could at the very least be called unsavoury, and this new revelation of just how far Qatar went to protect its interests could be dismissed as something we might expect anyway.
But this extra detail tells us just how murky the whole operation of Fifa has become -which is worth noting because the same people are still running Fifa. What is happening week by week is we are uncovering more and more stories about the organisation and just how far it will go to protect its interests.
The most recent revelations were revealed just a few days ago and take us back to the notorious hiring of a private jet to fly Infantino and his cronies from Central America back to Switzerland, because it was said that Infantino had an important meeting to attend. It has turned out that the investigation into what was said to be an appalling and unnecessary waste of money, was in fact only charged with investigating whether the sum paid for the flight, was actually paid, not whether the meeting was real.
It subsequently turned out that the meeting Infantino described in his explanation for the hiring of the private plane did not exist. The reason Infantino wanted to get back so quickly to Switzerland was to have a private conversation with the Greek lawyer Vassilious Skouris, who he then appointed head of ethics at Fifa!
In some ways this waste of $129,300 for the private jet from Surnam to Switzerland is just a detail, as is the revelation that Qatar bugged the hotels that its foreign guests stayed in are just details, but they are details which underline the very way Fifa is run. For it is Fifa and its ally Uefa which are at the heart of the moves, (supported so vigorously by the British media), against Super League. Yet Super League would break the Uefa/Fifa monpoly on controlling football, so it surely is valid for us to ask, even if no one else will, why is the UK media so much in favour of Uefa and Fifa?
The answer most likely is that Uefa and Fifa control the broadcasting rights for the major football tournaments and there is a fear that any criticism of Uefa and Fifa will mean that ITV and BBC will end up paying ever more for these rights.
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