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US sanctions Mexico football star over cartel ties

August 10, 2017

The US Treasury has accused Rafael "Rafa" Marquez of being a "front person" for a notorious drug trafficker. Washington has vowed to assist Mexico in combating influential drug cartels trafficking narcotics into the US.

Rafael Marquez during the 2014 World Cup
Image: Picture-alliance/dpa/epa/C. Moya

Mexican footballer accused of cartel link

US authorities on Wednesday announced sanctions against Mexican football star Rafael "Rafa" Marquez and several others for suspected links with a wanted drug lord.

Read more: Deadly violence breaks Mexico murder record

Marquez, who led Mexico's national team at the FIFA World Cup four times, was among 22 people and 43 entities targeted by the US Treasury's sanctions list, which comprised one of the largest single US actions against a Mexican cartel under the "Kingpin Act."

'Front person'

The US Treasury Department accused the 38-year-old football star of being a "front person," saying he maintains a "longstanding relationship" with Raul Flores Hernandez, a suspected drug trafficker with ties to the notorious Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Gang.

"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 E. Smith, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement.

The sanctions strike the drug lord's holdings in sectors ranging from health and sports to hospitality and tourism.

Inside the Tijuana smuggler tunnel

Wider US strategy

The move effectively freezes any assets, including property and bank accounts, the targeted person holds in a US jurisdiction. It also bans US companies and citizens from engaging in business with them.

Read more: The war on drugs: a Herculean task

Over the past decade, US authorities have pursued a robust strategy targeting dangerous drug cartels in Mexico. In January, infamous drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was extradited to the US for narcotics trafficking charges.

Despite growing tensions between Washington and Mexico City, Trump has vowed to assist Mexican authorities in combating influential drug cartels.

According to the Treasury, Mexican investigators played a key role in seizing assets linked to Hernandez and his suspected associates.

ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)