Qatar paid for Utah A.G. Sean Reyes to attend U.S. World Cup match. Robert Gehrke explains what happened.

A spokesperson for Reyes says Qatar paid for the trip because Reyes provided help on how to address human trafficking and cybersecurity policy for the Middle Eastern country.

(Julio Cortez | AP) US supporters sing the national anthem before the World Cup group B soccer match between England and the United States, at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes attended the game, and the Qatari government paid for his trip, a spokesman said.

When England and the United States fought to a 0-0 draw at the World Cup last week, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was in the crowd, and the Qatari government paid for his tickets, airfare and lodging.

It was a lavish perk worth tens of thousands of dollars for the state’s top prosecutor, but the junket does not appear to violate state ethics law, provided it can be somehow connected to an official function, according to two attorneys I spoke with. about the trip. .

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A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said travel to the game is not an official state trip.

Reyes’ campaign manager, Alan Crooks, told me that Qatar contacted the Attorney General’s Alliance – a bipartisan organization made up of more than 46 state and territory attorneys general – in the run-up to the World Cup, seeking advice on how to proceed. bring on. human trafficking and cyber security concerns.

Reyes was one of those who helped, participating in meetings in person and via Zoom with representatives of the Qatari government. The Attorney General was invited to attend the soccer tournament to see the results of the work, Crooks said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Reyes left for Qatar on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, attended the game on Friday, and returned late Sunday night. With at least 18 hours of travel each way, he had not been in the country for long, but he met with some of the Qatari officials he had worked with before, Crooks said.

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The Qatari government paid for Reyes’ travel and accommodation and a ticket to the game at Al Bayt Stadium through the AGA, Crooks explained, but said Reyes paid for his wife, Saysha’s, airfare.

What Reyes shared about combating human trafficking and what was actually used in Qatar is an open question. Qatar is seriously investigating the harsh treatment of foreign workers who worked in oppressive fire and poor conditions for very low wages to build the stadiums that hosted the World Cup.

Under a system known as kafala, migrant workers are essentially tied to their sponsored employer and unable to leave for better wages than return home. Qatar got rid of the kafala system in 2020, according to the Guardian, ten years after the Middle Eastern country was awarded the World Cup by FIFA.

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An investigation by The Guardian in 2021 estimated that around 6,500 foreign workers had died in the 10-year period leading up to the World Cup. In the an interview with Piers Morgan this week, Hassan al-Thawadi, a Qatari official who helped organize the World Cup, estimated that between 400 and 500 workers died working on construction projects related to the soccer tournament.

“I know it’s a very sensitive and emotional thing. You have to be very careful how you handle that,” Crooks said. “[Reyes] is aware of it and clearly does not agree with it [the treatment of workers]. He wants to open up a relationship with that. And of course, they were happy with the relationship they had with him.”


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