Ex-CIA man hired by Qatar to spy on rivals for World Cup bid, report says

Qatar has for years employed a former CIA officer to help spy on football officials as part of a no-expense-spared effort to win and hold on to the 2022 Fifa World Cup tournament, an investigation by the Associated Press (AP) has found.

he AP’s probe found Qatar sought an edge in securing hosting rights by hiring a former CIA officer turned private contractor, Kevin Chalker, to spy on rival bid teams and football officials who picked the winner in 2010.

He also worked for Qatar in the years that followed to keep tabs on the country’s critics in the football world.

The investigation is based on interviews with Mr Chalker’s former associates as well as contracts, invoices, emails and a review of business documents. The surveillance work included having someone pose as a photojournalist to keep tabs on a rival nation’s bid, a review of records shows.

Mr Chalker also promised he could help the country “maintain dominance” over its large population of foreign workers, an internal document from one of his companies reviewed by the AP shows.

Qatar is heavily reliant on foreign labour to build the stadiums and other infrastructure for the tournament.

Qatari government officials did not respond to requests for comment. Fifa also declined to comment.

Mr Chalker said in a statement provided by a representative that he and his companies would not “ever engage in illegal surveillance”.

He declined requests for an interview or to answer detailed questions about his work. He also claimed that some of the documents reviewed by the AP were forgeries.

The AP reviewed hundreds of pages of documents from Mr Chalker’s companies, including a 2013 project update report that had several photos of his staff meeting football officials.

Sources with authorised access provided documents to the AP. The sources said they were troubled by Mr Chalker’s work for Qatar and requested anonymity because they feared retaliation.

The AP took several steps to verify the documents’ authenticity. These included confirming details with different sources, including former Chalker associates and football officials; cross-checking contents of documents with contemporaneous news accounts and publicly available business records; and examining electronic documents’ metadata, or digital history, where available, to confirm who made the documents and when.

Mr Chalker worked at the CIA as an operations officer for about five years, according to former associates. Operations officers typically work undercover trying to recruit assets to spy on behalf of the US.  

Mr Chalker’s background in the CIA was attractive to Qatari officials, said 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.

The Sunday Times previously reported that unnamed ex-CIA agents helped Qatar’s 2010 bid team, but the AP’s investigation is the most detailed yet.

Qatar’s successful bid has long been dogged by allegations of corruption. It has denied wrongdoing, but has also had to fend off allegations by labour watchdogs of worker abuses and an effort by neighbouring countries to isolate, weaken and embarrass it through an economic boycott and informational warfare.

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