Among them ex-CIA agents, these are the people Qatar used to cheat its way to WC 2022

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The lid is off the well-planned ‘black operations’ by Qatar to sabotage the rival bids from the US and Australia for the FIFA 2022 World Cup which Doha was awarded during the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in Zürich on December 2, 2010.

The Sunday Times report compiled through leaked emails given to the newspaper by a whistleblower reveals that the sabotage operation was carried out by the New York-based PR firm Brown Lloyd James, now known as BLJ Worldwide. The modus operandi was by using middlemen to approach journalists, academics, bloggers and others to create negative reports on the bids by rival countries.


These “middlemen acting for Qatar pretended to represent concerned taxpayers” and they approached two influential professors - one in US and the other in Australia - and offered them payment to write damaging reports against the rival bidders.

The emails name the following people who played a role in the Qatari plot or just were approached to take part in it:

Qatar cheats its way through the world cup
Qatar cheats its way through the world cup

Ali al-Thawadi, a top Qatari official: The plan to hoodwink Congress was a highly sensitive project that required direct engagement with the top team. One email is addressed directly to Ali al-Thawadi, the deputy chief executive of the Qatar bid. While Ali kept in the shadows, the whistleblower claims the official oversaw the ‘black operations’ campaign.

At some point, the campaign went as far as planning to influence the US Congress. In a leaked email sent to al-Thawadi, a plan was outlined to compose a resolution on the harmful effects of hosting the World Cup against the alternative of financing high school sports.

Former CIA agents: The agents are also said to have been hired to carry out a range of due diligence work.

Qatar cheats its way through the world cup
Qatar cheats its way through the world cup

Michael Holtzman, BLJ Worldwide’s president: He was the apparent coordinator of the plot, giving the feedback to the Qatar bid in his “strategy” email in May 2010 and listing all the details about the dirty work.

For example, he said: “We have recruited the head of the Federation [sic] of Sports Economists to write a major study on how the US World Cup lost money, and how the 2018-2022 proposal would also lose money.”

Qatar cheats its way through the world cup
Qatar cheats its way through the world cup

Ahmad Nimeh, a senior adviser: He was employed by the Qatar bid, has a home in London, and is married to the daughter of the former US ambassador to Qatar. He is the Qatari bid’s senior adviser. Nimeh’s responses in the documents showed how happy the bid team was to mislead the public and undermine its rivals.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Thani, the son of the emir of Qatar: He signed up to a contractual “declarations of compliance with the rules of conduct”. However documents prove that his team under his supervision broke FIFA’s rules in its campaign to host the World Cup in Doha.

Professor Dennis Coates: The professor, an economist from Maryland University, admitted last week he received $9,000 for the 23-page report that he wrote detailing the negative impact of the bid by Qatar’s chief rival US.

Professor Coates’ article cast doubt that the tournament would result in billions of dollars in revenue for the US, before concluding: “US taxpayers are better off saying no to an expensive and secretive World Cup bid.”

Coates’s report received extensive media coverage, as he was the president of the Association of Sports Economists.

Professor Richard Pomfret: In Australia, the Qatari middlemen through the PR firm zeroes in on economist Professor Pomfret at Adelaide University.

Like Professor Coates in the US, Professor Pomfret was offered money to write a critique of Australia’s bid - Qatar’s second main rival. But the Australian academic did not bite the bait and turned down the offer.

The two academics were in the dark about the background of the middlemen who approached them and that the cash being offered was being paid by the Qatar bid committee.

Prof Pomfret disapproved of the tactic when he came to know about Doha’s role in the ruse. “The subterfuge leaves a bad taste,” he said.

Peter Reid, an Australian lawyer: It was Reid who approached Pomfret in October 2010 claiming to represent an international businessman concerned about the the bid and the use of public funds.

In his letter, Reid asked Pomfret if he had seen Coates’s report and wondered if for “a fee” whether he would be willing to write a similar one the Australian bid.

Pomfret refused the offer.

Qatar cheats its way through the world cup
Qatar cheats its way through the world cup

Brian Wagner, a BLJ executive from the New York office: It was PR man Wagner who arranged Coates’s payment for his report. In March 2010, Wagner contacted Coates claiming that he represented an “informal organization of concerned taxpayers’ who are upset by the lack of cost estimates available relating to the US’s World Cup bid costs.

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