US links Mexico star Marquez to drug cartel

MEXICO CITY: The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it sanctioned major Mexican soccer star Rafael ‘Rafa’ Marquez and more than 20 others for suspected links with an accused drug kingpin, tarnishing the reputation of one of Mexico’s sporting giants.
Marquez, 38, along with a popular singer known as Julion Alvarez and nearly two dozen other Mexican nationals, is accused of financial ties with Raul Flores Hernandez, a suspected drug trafficker with links to the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation gang.
The US Treasury Department said the designation was “the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel network that OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control) has designated,” and comes after US President Donald Trump promised to crush Mexico’s drug cartels.
“Raul Flores Hernandez has operated for decades because of his longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask his investments of illegal drug proceeds,” OFAC Director John E Smith said in a statement, calling the move a “major joint action” with Mexico.
Maquez denied the accusations in a news conference on Wednesday evening and vowed to cooperate with authorities.
“I deny categorically any type of relation with this organisation,” he said. “I understand the legal situation in which I find myself, and I will immediately focus my energy on the clarification of the facts with the support of my team of lawyers.”
Marquez gave a voluntary declaration before the Mexican attorney general’s office on Wednesday, the office said in a statement.
Marquez, who hails from the cartel-riddled state of Michoacan, is one of the country’s best know sportsmen and has played in Europe for club sides FC Barcelona and Monaco. He still occasionally captains the Mexican national team, having represented his country in four World Cup soccer tournaments.
According to documents on the Treasury’s website, Marquez was linked to Flores Hernandez’s organisation via a football school called Escuela de Futbol Rafael Marquez as well as various other sports and health outfits.
— Reuters