Mexico Soccer Star Rafa Marquez Denies Drug Cartel Affiliation

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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 FC Barcelona and Monaco.

The two men are accused of aiding Raul Flores Hernandez, described in Mexican media reports as a low-key cartel boss who has been trafficking Colombian cocaine to the United States and running casinos in Mexico for several years.

Both he and Rafael Marquez are accused, in a USA treasury department statement, of having "longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez. acted as front persons for him and his DTO [drug-trafficking organisation] and held assets on their behalf". Flores is allegedly allies with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation drug cartels, the Times reported.

However, Alvarez, known as "El Rey de la Taquilla" or the king of the box office for his ability to pack out Mexican stadiums, rushed to the defence of his "great friend" Marquez.

The 38-year-old football legend is the only player in football history to captain a national team at four different World Cups.

The U.S. 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 U.S. President Donald Trump promised to crush Mexico's drug cartels. In March 2017, federal drug trafficking indictments were returned in the District of Columbia and the Southern District of California against Flores Hernandez.

Advancing into his 30s, Marquez then had stints with the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer, Leon of Mexico and Hellas Verona in Italy's Serie A before returning to Atlas. He has been a member of the Mexican national team since 1997 and has made 143 career appearances, adding 19 goals. Under the terms of the briefing, the official could not be named.

The Treasury also cited a soccer academy and health and rehabilitation clinics owned by Marquez as having ties to the drug-trafficking organization.

Drug traffickers have always been interested in soccer stars and musicians, Vigil said.

"They love soccer ... so they love to associate with sports figures", Vigil said.

All of the sanctioned individuals and entities' assets subject to USA jurisdiction will be frozen and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from doing business with them.

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