Legendary Mexican football player, Rafael Marquez, who had played for Barcelona, has been named in a drug trafficking organization after being sanctioned by the U.S Treasury Department on Wednesday.
The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it had sanctioned former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez and more than 20 others for suspected links with an accused drug kingpin, tarnishing the reputation of one of Mexico’s sporting giants, Dailymail UK reports.
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 when he signed for Barcelona
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; Barcelona, Monaco and the New York Red Bulls, and currently plays for the Mexican football club, Atlas in Guadalajara and was a long-serving captain of the Mexican national team.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday evening, Marquez said: “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.
“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 organizations 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.”
According to documents on the Treasury’s website, Marquez was linked to Flores Hernandez’s organization via a football school called Escuela de Futbol Rafael Marquez as well as various other sports and health outfits.
The US Treasury said it had sanctioned 43 entities linked to Flores Hernandez’s holdings, from sectors including sport, hospitality and tourism and health.