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 0-0 draw in the group stage. World Cup.
The incident occurred 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 Crook.
“In the run-up to the World Cup, Qatar reached out to the world — not just the United States — to try and get the knowledge of how to handle all of this because they’ve never done it before,” Crokes said. “Sean opened the door to communication, which is helpful, and they wanted him to come out and show what they’ve accomplished.”
Although the trip was not an official state visit, Crooks said it did not present any conflict of interest or ethical breach because it was in part a continuation of a previous working relationship.
Ray himself was not available for an interview, Crooks said.
Gets valuable luxury gifts and trips to get a curious “zooming light” on an extremely anti-human rights oil rich nation…
According to Crooks, Ray began consulting with Qatari officials in November 2021 when Qatar approached the Attorney General Alliance for advice on human trafficking and cybersecurity. Ray, who is one of 46 state and territorial attorneys general in the bipartisan organization, met with officials in person and virtually and had “back and forth” phone calls with others before the tournament.
Major global events such as the World Cup, Olympics and Super Bowl are believed to increase sex trafficking, Crooks said, which is why Qatar sought help.
Utah AG Sean Ray spent Thanksgiving weekend in Qatar after the country’s government paid for his airfare, lodging and tickets to see the U.S. and England play to a 0-0 World Cup group stage tie. #utpol https://t.co/iNyoTc3JuH
— Bridger Beal-Cvetko (@BealBridger) December 3, 2022
Law enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts to crack down on human trafficking in recent years leading up to the Super Bowl, but a Washington Post report found no “causal link between major sporting events and an increase in sex trafficking.”
According to the US State Department’s 2022 report, Qatar has made “significant efforts” to combat human trafficking in recent years, but it still falls short of minimum standards to reduce human trafficking.
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 prove they weren’t wasting his time.
“There were probably some people who were saved because of what Sean did,” Crook told KSL.com. “We can’t quantify it, but I think that would be a big goal for him.”
Reyes’ trip to Qatar was relatively short, but Crooks said he met with some Qatari officials he knew while he was there. He traveled to Qatar the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, played in a match that Friday, and flew home Sunday night.
I was watching this game and they were showing the fans in the stands and I was like, “That guy looks like Shawn Reyes.” I mean I didn’t see things. LOL
— Tony Rossi (@Rossta_Pasta) December 2, 2022
The Qatari government paid for Reyes’ travel through the Attorney General’s Alliance, and Reyes paid for his wife’s travel, according to Crook.
Qatar likely spent thousands of dollars on the trip, with round-trip airfare from Salt Lake City to Doha costing between $1,600 and $3,500 for the 18-hour flight. According to FIFA, individual tickets for the World Cup group stage for non-Qatar residents cost between $68 and $220.
It came as a surprise to many when Qatar was chosen to host the World Cup 12 years ago, and the US Department of Justice in 2020 accused Qatari officials of bribing FIFA officials to secure the hosting rights. The small Gulf state has faced further criticism over its human rights record and the harsh conditions faced by foreign workers as they worked to build stadiums and infrastructure to host 32 soccer teams and fans from around the world.
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 more than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died . in the country, reports The Guardian. Qatar said between 400 and 500 workers had died in preparation for the World Cup.
Crooks said Ray was aware of the allegations against Qatar, calling it “a very sensitive topic during their meeting that was dealt with very carefully.”
“It’s mentioned that they’re changing some of their practices and working on some of these 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 do things.