“Project Matterhorn”, Qatar’s plan to spy on a Swiss prosecutor investigating FIFA

Former Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber (AFP) (FABRICE COFFRINI /)

Qatar spied on a former Swiss attorney general and eavesdropped on a secret meeting with the FIFA chief, amid fears he could be stripped of the 2022 World Cup host.

As reported by the Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag, Qatar organized an intelligence operation to spy on an informal meeting six years ago between then Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber and FIFA chief Gianni Infantino.

The newspaper said its months-long investigation had revealed that the covert meeting in Bern on June 16, 2017, which cost Lauber his job after being revealed, had been secretly recorded for Qatar. According to the German newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, the room where the meeting took place was equipped with microphones.

At that time, the office of Lauber was investigating allegations of massive corruption in world soccer.including irregularities in the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.

In this Dec. 16, 2022 photo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks at a press conference during the Qatar World Cup in Doha, Qatar.  (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
In this Dec. 16, 2022 photo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks at a press conference during the Qatar World Cup in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) (Martin Meissner/)

However, when it became known that he had three informal meetings with Infantino, and in particular the one in 2017, he had to resign.

The meeting was held at the luxurious Hotel Schweizerhof, run by Qatari owners since 2009, in a conference room down the hall from the Qatari embassy, ​​noted NZZ.

Various investigations revealed that, fearing that it would lose the right to host the 2022 World Cup due to allegations of corruption and human rights violations, Qatar launched an international influence operation. The country spied on FIFA officials and Lauber, according to NZZ, which claimed to have obtained “secret official documents proving the spying action” at the Schweizerhof.

The newspaper also claimed that sources with direct knowledge of the incident had described the operation, on condition of anonymity, and said that it involved the code name of “Project Matterhorn” (by Mount Matterhorn).

The sources said the main purpose of the spying was to gather incriminating material that could be used to put pressure on the prosecutor.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during the final draw for the Qatar 2022 World Cup on April 1, 2022 (REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski)
FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, during the final draw for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, on April 1, 2022 (REUTERS / Pawel Kopczynski) (PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI /)

The investigation adds to the data revealed last November when the Swiss media SRF and Swiss Info detailed that Qatar there was orchestrated a large-scale and long-running intelligence operation against officials of the FIFA in which he spent hundreds of millions of dollars in hacking operations to guarantee the organization of the World Cup 2022.

As revealed by that investigation, the State of Qatar ordered the “Project without mercy” to win the World Cup bid after massive criticism of FIFA’s awarding of the tournament to the controversial country in 2010. The plan was huge: the budget amounted to 387 million dollars. And activities spanned five continents. In fact, the highest echelons of the Qatari government were implicated in the espionage activities, including the current head of state, the Emir of Qatar.

The documents show that the project wanted to ensure that nothing that could jeopardize the celebration of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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