Qatar allegedly spied on a meeting between FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, and Switzerland’s attorney general in 2017.
The NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported that documents and other sources showed the surveillance was carried to gather material on Michael Lauber who was overseeing a probe of international football officials at the time.
The Swiss investigation had begun in 2014 to look for suspected financial wrongdoing linked to World Cup bidders, including Qatar’s winning campaign to host the 2022 tournament.
The alleged spying operation bugged a 2017 meeting in a Qatari-owned hotel in the Swiss capital, Bern. The hotel at the time also housed the emirate’s embassy.
The latest newspaper article appears to confirm reports that Qatar spent millions of dollars over several years hiring the Global Risk Advisors agency to spy on the FIFA – football’s world governing body – and international soccer officials to protect its World Cup.
After Qatar won the FIFA hosting vote in 2010, its World Cup project variously seemed at risk because of the extreme desert heat and allegations of corruption in the bid.
There were also reports of human rights and migrant labour abuses, and an economic and logistical boycott by neighbouring states.
The hotel meeting between Infantino and Lauber was revealed four years ago and is part of an investigation into their three undocumented meetings in 2016 and 2017 being conducted by two special prosecutors appointed by the Swiss parliament.
Lauber and Infantino both claimed they did not remember the content of their two meetings in 2016. They also did not acknowledge they had a third meeting in 2017 that was revealed several months later and led to Lauber losing his job.
Next week, FIFA’s more than 200 members are due to meet in Rwanda for their annual gathering and to re-elect Infantino for another four-year term as president.