Swiss newspaper accuses Qatar orchestrated spying operation on senior magistrate
The Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag accuses the organizer of the last Football World Cup.
Qatar orchestrated an operation to spy on a meeting with former Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber, responsible for investigating corruption in football and in particular the awarding of the 2022 World Cup, claims NZZ am Sonntag on Sunday .
Qatar has strongly denied the accusation and is threatening to sue the Swiss weekly. Mr. Lauber’s lawyer told NZZ am Sonntag that his client did not know he was being spied on, and had not been blackmailed after the meeting.
Ex-CIA agents involved?
According to this newspaper, Sunday supplement of the German-speaking Zurich daily NZZ, the Gulf country would have orchestrated a spy operation to hide microphones during an informal meeting held on June 16, 2017 in Bern (Switzerland) between Michael Lauber and the boss of Fifa, Gianni Infantino. The meeting is said to have taken place at the luxurious Hotel Schweizerhof, which has been owned by Qataris since 2009, in a conference room located in the same corridor as the embassy of the gas emirate, according to the NZZ.
After the 2022 World Cup was awarded, Qatar for a time feared losing the right to organize the competition, accused of corruption and human rights violations. The Qatari authorities would then have spied on members of Fifa and Mr. Lauber, using former CIA agents, according to the NZZ, which claims to have obtained “official secret documents which attest to this espionage operation” at the ‘Hotel Schweizerhof. On Sunday, Qatar threatened the newspaper with legal action. “These allegations are yet another attempt to spread false information about Qatar and tarnish its reputation,” according to a statement released by the government’s press service.
“We reject these allegations and we are studying all possible legal consequences. It is obvious that the numerous defamation campaigns against Qatar in Europe continue unabated, in the French, Swiss and other European media”. NZZ am Sonntag specifies however that sources having knowledge of the file described the operation to him, on condition of anonymity, specifying that it bore the code name “Mont Cervin Project”, from the name of the famous mountain located in the Alps, at the Italian-Swiss border. According to these sources, the purpose of this operation would have been to be able to put pressure on the Attorney General to conceal from his hierarchy his contacts with Gianni Infantino.
Mr. Lauber was dismissed in June 2019 from the investigation into a corruption scandal at Fifa, because of his undeclared contacts in 2016 and 2017 with Mr. Infantino, then he ended up resigning a year later, in July 2020.