US sanctions Mexico football captain Rafael Marquez for alleged drug cartel ties
Marquez was one of 22 people and 43 entities the US Treasury placed on a sanctions list in relation to a Guadalajara-based drug trafficking cartel controlled by one Raul Flores Hernandez Photograph: (AFP)
The US Treasury on Wednesday accused Rafael Marquez, captain of Mexico's national football team and a former FC Barcelona player, of being a "front person" for a major drug trafficking organization.
Marquez was one of 22 people and 43 entities the US Treasury placed on a sanctions list in relation to a Guadalajara-based drug trafficking cartel controlled by one Raul Flores Hernandez.
The Treasury said Marquez has a "longstanding relationship" with Flores, has acted as a "front person" for him and held assets on his drug cartel's behalf.
Also on the list of those in one of the largest single US actions against a Mexican cartel under Washington's "Kingpin Act" were Flores and members of his family, and Latin Grammy-nominated singer Julion Alvarez.
"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," said John Smith, head of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control which implements sanctions.
The sanctions freeze any assets, such as bank accounts and property, that a blacklisted person holds in a US jurisdiction, and bans any US individuals or companies from doing business with them.
Known popularly as Rafa, the 38-year-old Marquez made his debut for the national team in February 1997 and has captained his country in the last four World Cups.
He was a young star for the Atlas club before moving to Monaco in 1999.
Four years later he signed with FC Barcelona, becoming the first Mexican player to win a Champions League final with the team's victory over Arsenal in 2006. The defender spent another four injury-marred years with the team before being released in 2010.
After that, he spent two years with the Red Bulls of US Major League Soccer, and then joined Mexico's Club Leon, and most recently played for Atlas again.
Still potent despite injuries, he scored the winning goal at the 89th minute in a 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory over the United States last November.