US law enforcers name Mexican captain Márquez as front for drug cartel

Rafael Márquez

August 10 – Mexico’s national team captain Rafael Márquez has been sanctioned by the US treasury department for allegedly being a “front person” for a drug-trafficking cartel.

Márquez has been named as one of 21 people and 42 organisations from several walks of life suspected of having links with the cartel that is allegedly headed by Raul Flores Hernandez  following an multi-year investigation.

Those named are accused of having “longstanding relationships with Flores Hernández… acted as front persons for him and his DTO [drug-trafficking organisation] and held assets on their behalf”.

The U.S. statement did not say whether Marquez or any of the others sanctioned face charges in the United States, but the ruling reportedly means that any assets they possess under US jurisdiction will be frozen.

According to reports in the US, Marquez was linked to Hernandez’s organisation via a football school called Escuela de Futbol Rafael Marquez as well as various other sports and health outfits. One Treasury Department official was quoted as saying that the association between Marquez and Hernandez went back at least 20 years and that Marquez served as “an important” frontman for money laundering.

Márquez,  38, has represented Mexico in four World Cups and has won more than 150 international caps. At Barcelona, where he spent 10 years, he won the Spanish league four times and the Champions League twice, returning to Mexico in 2015 to rejoin his first club Atlas.

Marquez,  who also played for Monaco and the New York Red Bulls, is revered in his homeland as a heroic defender, though he is widely remembered for being banned for four games for headbutting Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup during a crunch encounter between arch-rivals Mexico and the USA.

On Wednesday he held a news conference to categorically deny any involvement in drugs trafficking.

“Today several news outlets reported that I am part of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Treasury Department for alleged ties to criminal organization. I categorically deny any type of relation with this organization and with what has been stated in several news reports,” he said.

“I understand the legal situation that I find myself in, and I will immediately work on clearing up the facts alongside my team of attorneys.

“I reiterate that I have never participated in any of these organisations that have been mentioned in these reports, and want to reiterate my duty to assist the various authorities and corresponding governments in a punctual manner and maintain the media informed.

“I also want to ask for respect for my family and towards my situation, because it is not a normal situation — it is a difficult situation, and I ask for as much respect as possible.

“I also thank those who have sent me messages of support; I know that many people are with me and I will not disappoint them.

“Just as I have approached my professional career, today is my most difficult challenge. I will try to clear this up when I can and be the Rafa Marquez everyone knows.”

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