Qatar government paid for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ trip to see World Cup match

England’s John Stones tackles the ball with United States’ Christian Pulisic, right, during the World Cup soccer match in Al Khor, Qatar, on November 25. The Qatari government paid for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ trip to the Middle Eastern country to watch the game. (Luca Bruno, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spent Thanksgiving weekend in Qatar, after the Middle Eastern country’s government paid for his airfare, lodging and tickets to see the United States and England play to a draw 0 -0 in the World Cup group stage.

The junket came as Reyes consulted with Qatari officials on ways to reduce human trafficking and improve cyber security ahead of the 2022 World Cup, according to Reyes’ campaign manager and spokesman Alan Crooks.

“In preparation for the World Cup, Qatar was reaching out to the world – not just the United States – to try to get expertise on how to handle all of this because they’ve never done that before,” a Crooks said. “Sean opened a door of communication, which is helpful, and they wanted him to come out and show them what they implemented.”

Although the trip was not an official state visit, Crooks said it did not represent a conflict of interest or breach of ethics because it was in part a follow-up to a previous working relationship.

Reyes himself was not available for an interview, Crooks said.

According to Crooks, Reyes began consulting with Qatari officials in November 2021 when Qatar approached the Attorney General Alliance for advice on human trafficking and cyber security. Reyes, who is one of 46 state and territory attorneys general in the bipartisan organization, met with officials in person and virtually and had other “back and forth” communications by phone before the contest.

Major global events such as the World Cup, the Olympics and the Super Bowl are believed to lead to an increase in sex trafficking, Crooks said, which is why Qatar has reached out for help.

Law enforcement agencies have launched efforts to curb human trafficking in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl in recent years, but the Washington Post report found “no causal relationship between major sporting events and an increase in sex trafficking.”

Qatar has made “significant efforts” to combat human trafficking in recent years, according to a 2022 report from the US State Department, but it still does not meet minimum standards for mitigating trafficking.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes speaks at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 22, 2021. The government of Qatar paid for a trip for Reyes to see the World Cup over Thanksgiving weekend.
Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes speaks at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on July 22, 2021. The government of Qatar paid for a trip for Reyes to see the World Cup over Thanksgiving weekend. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

It’s unclear which, if any, of Reyes’ recommendations were ultimately implemented in Qatar, but Crooks said he believes the trip was an attempt by the Qatari government to thank Reyes for his help and demonstrate that they wasted his time.

“It is possible that some people were saved because of what Sean does,” said Crooks “We can’t quantify that … but I think it would be a big goal for him to be there.”

Reyes’ trip to Qatar was relatively short, but Crooks said he met some of the Qatari officials he knew while there. He left for Qatar on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, attended the game that Friday, then flew home on Sunday night.

The government of Qatar paid for Reyes’ trip through the Attorney General’s Alliance, and Reyes paid for his wife’s travel, according to Crooks.

Qatar probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on the trip, and round-trip airfare from Salt Lake City to Doha cost between $1,600 and $3,500 for an 18-hour flight. Individual World Cup group stage match tickets cost between $68 and $220 for non-residents of Qatar, according to FIFA.

Many were surprised when Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup 12 years ago, and the US Department of Justice accused Qatari representatives in 2020 of bribing FIFA officials to secure hosting rights. The Gulf nation has come under further criticism for its human rights record and the harsh conditions faced by foreign workers as they work to build stadiums and infrastructure to house 32 soccer teams and fans from around the world. hosting.

Qatar ended its kafala system in 2020 – under which foreign workers were tied to their employers and barred from changing jobs or leaving the country without permission – but there are more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in the country, according to The Guardian. Qatar said between 400 and 500 workers died in preparation for the World Cup.

Crooks said Reyes was aware of the allegations against Qatar, saying it was “a very sensitive matter as they met, which was addressed very carefully.”

“It has been mentioned that they are changing some of their practices and working on some of those things,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to be perfect all of a sudden. … We don’t agree with some of their practices, but hopefully we can help them improve the way they handle things.”


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