US Sanctions Mexican Soccer Player for Alleged Connections to Drug Lord

Photo of Marquez in 2014
Image Source: Wikipedia


Rafa Marquez, one of Mexico’s greatest soccer players and the captain of Mexico’s national soccer team, along with 21 other Mexican nationals were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for allegedly acting as a front person and holding assets for suspected Mexican drug kingpin, Raul Flores Hernandez. The sanctions were part of a multi nation and agency effort to disrupt the Flores  Drug Trafficking organization (DTO), an independent member of the Mexican drug cartel. 

In what is being considered as the first case of a high-profile Mexican sports person being tagged for having an affiliation with drug traffickers, the U.S. Treasury Department has blamed Mr. Marquez for allegedly acting as front man for Mr. Hernandez. Hernandez had been taken to court in March of this year for the charge of cocaine trafficking.

Apart from Mr. Marquez, 21 others have been listed as having ties with Mr. Hernandez including Marquez’s charitable foundation “Futbol y Corazon” (Soccer and Heart). Mr. Marquez has been accused of holding assets in the non-profit on behalf of the drug mafia. While the Mexico’s Attorney General’s office said that it was working with US authorities regarding the case with an ongoing investigation, Mr. Marquez denied any connections to the drug cartel.

Experts have said that money laundering can be easily done through charitable foundations in Mexico. Cash contributions account for close to 96% of all transactions in Mexico. In countries like Mexico and Colombia, drug cartels are big supporters of sports, especially soccer. Mr. Marquez is a native of Zamora, Michoacon which has a heavy presence of drug traffickers and cartels.

There were no comments from Mr. Marquez’s foundation and the Mexican Soccer Federation.

As a result of today’s action, all assets of the individuals and entities that are under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with him. The sanctions could prevent Márquez from doing business with any U.S. citizens, so several of his sponsorship programs and business deals will likely have to end and it’s still unclear whether he’ll be charged with a crime.

On the other hand, the sanctions likely won’t affect Márquez on the field. Mexico doesn’t have any more scheduled matches on U.S. soil until 2018. The U.S. could deny him entry as an inadmissible alien, but he’s 38 and said he plans to retire after the 2018 World Cup.

Rafa has yet to publicly comment on today’s actions but voluntarily spoke with Mexico’s Attorney General’s office regarding the matter. Widely known as a great soccer defender, Rafa has played for some of the best and biggest soccer clubs around the world, including New York’s Red Bulls, AC Monaco and FC Barcelona. He currently plays and captains for both Mexico’s club Atlas and the national team.

Even though he is widely regarded as one of the best soccer players in Mexico’s history, fans and sports analyst in America and Mexico have often criticized him as playing dirty, taking cheap shots at players and lacking self-restraint during crucial soccer matches. Perhaps this lack of self-restraint has lead Mr.Martinez to this defining moment in his life.

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