The U.S. Treasury announced yesterday that it was sanctioning 22 Mexican individuals for providing different types of support to a Mexican drug trafficking organization with ties to a pair of major cartels, freezing their assets in the country. The big surprise in this announcement was that among the sanctioned, included was the longtime captain of Mexico’s national soccer team Rafael Marquez, who is considered one of the greatest players in the country’s history.
The Treasury alleged that Marquez acted as front person for a criminal organization headed by Raul Flores Hernandez. Apparently, his assets in the United States or controlled by Americans, have been frozen, and he could even face civil penalties of over $1 million or criminal penalties for violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, along with the rest of the sanctioned.
The announcement was the result of what the agency has called a multi-year investigation undertaken by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in coordination the Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and even the Mexican government. The Treasury assured this operation marks the largest single Kingpin Act action against any Mexican drug cartel network that OFAC has designated.
Raul Flores Hernandez was alleged to be an independent operator, one who has been quite active in the drug trade since the 80s and who has some “strategic alliances” with Mexico’s Jalisco and Sinaloa New Generation cartels. In addition, the Treasury also designated 42 Mexican entities as providing support for his organization, including a soccer team called Club Deportivo Morumbi.
Rafael Marquez began his career with Atlas, a club based in the city of Guadalajara where Florez Hernandez was alleged to operate. The captain of Mexico’s soccer national team returned to this club two years ago after a very successful career.
When he left the club back in 1999 he moved to Monaco, with whom he won a Ligue 1 title, showing great defensive skills. Then he moved to Barcelona where he had his greatest moments by winning La Liga four times and the Champions League twice. Additionally, Marquez played with Hellas Verona in Italy, Club León in Mexico, and the New York Red Bulls in the MLS.
For much of that period, he was not only a Mexican figure playing in the most important leagues of Europe, but also the captain of the Mexican team in four World Cups from 2002 to 2014. Back in 2002, he earned the anger of American fans in the Korea and Japan World Cup for brutally hitting Cobi Jones with in a violent mid-air tackle.
What seems as one of the most damaging details of this situation is that the Treasury also cited a soccer institution and health and rehabilitation clinics owned by Marquez as having ties to the Flores Hernandez organization.
The OFAC Director John E. Smith said in a statement that this criminal has operated for decades thanks to his long-standing relationships with many other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons (as Marquez) in order to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds.
According to former chief of international operations for the DEA Mike Vigil, it is quite difficult to imagine Marquez didn’t know who he was dealing with, given the fact that Flores Hernandez has been in the game for a very long time.
Although there hasn’t been any sports journalist who has dismissed the Treasury revelations about Marquez, some of them have explained the reason why this is a big surprise is because of the fact this player has been one of the wealthiest players in Mexico during the last two decades.
Footballer Rafael Marquez Alvarez among 22 people sanctioned by US Treasury Department for alleged ties to drug trafficking organisation. pic.twitter.com/jdvklZR3JJ
— Mad Man Matić (@BleedManUnited) 9 de agosto de 2017
Regarding his delicate situation, Marquez made a public appearance a couple of hours ago denying everything. He said he denied any kind of relation with Flores Hernandez organization and assured he would do whatever it takes to clear this issue. The player also told this is his “most difficult match.”
In addition to the Mexican soccer legend, the sanctions also included a popular Mexican singer called Julion Alvarez, who also acted as a front person of the Flores Hernandez organization, according to U.S. authorities. Regarding his situation, the famous singer recently posted a video to his Facebook page denying the accusations and saying that “absolutely nothing is going on.”