Soc­cer star ac­cused of drug trade ties

U.S. freezes the as­sets of Rafael Mar­quez and oth­ers, in­clud­ing a noted norteño singer.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kate Linthicum kate.linthicum@la­times.com Twit­ter: @katelinthicum

MEX­ICO CITY — Two Mex­i­can celebri­ties — a soc­cer star and a norteño band leader — have been sanc­tioned by the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment for al­leged ties to a drug traf­ficker.

Soc­cer leg­end Rafael Mar­quez and singer Julio Ce­sar Al­varez Mon­te­longo are among nearly two dozen peo­ple ac­cused Wed­nes­day of aid­ing al­leged drug king­pin Raul Flores Her­nan­dez.

Mar­quez, a for­mer Barcelona and New York Red Bulls star who now plays for the Guadala­jara club At­las, is Mex­i­can sports roy­alty. A skilled cen­ter back and de­fen­sive mid­fielder, he’s widely known as just “Rafa.”

He has been cap­tain of Mex­ico’s team at the last four World Cups, and had hoped to be­come the first player in his­tory to cap­tain a na­tional team at a fifth World Cup.

Al­varez, known on­stage as Julion Al­varez, is a Latin Grammy-nom­i­nated singer who was once praised by Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto as “a great ex­am­ple for Mex­i­can youth.”

Trea­sury of­fi­cials say Mar­quez and Al­varez acted as fronts and held as­sets for Flores, who of­fi­cials say has been smug­gling drugs and laun­der­ing money since the 1980s and has al­liances with the pow­er­ful Si­naloa and Jalisco New Gen­er­a­tion drug car­tels.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease an­nounc­ing the ac­tions, the Trea­sury Depart­ment has frozen all as­sets un­der U.S. ju­ris­dic­tion that be­long to Flores, Mar­quez, Al­varez and the oth­ers ac­cused of ties to Flores.

The For­eign Nar­cotics King­pin Des­ig­na­tion Act, which was passed by Congress in 1999, gives the Trea­sury Depart­ment the power to freeze as­sets of for­eign na­tion­als it be­lieves are in­volved in in­ter­na­tional drug traf­fick­ing.

A soc­cer school owned by Mar­quez and his char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion are among the en­ti­ties sanc­tioned, along with a casino, a soc­cer club and a mu­sic pro­duc­tion stu­dio.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Mar­quez could not be reached Wed­nes­day, and the soc­cer star did not is­sue a pub­lic state­ment.

Mex­ico’s at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, which is co­op­er­at­ing with U.S. au­thor­i­ties, said Mar­quez gave a state­ment to the Mex­i­can at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice Wed­nes­day.

In a video Al­varez posted Wed­nes­day on Face­book, the mu­si­cian re­but­ted the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing “ab­so­lutely noth­ing hap­pened.”

Al­varez said he had no need to join the drug trade, and said of his money, “I earned it.”

Ro­man Kru­chinin AFP/Getty Im­ages

MEX­ICO’S Rafael Mar­quez, widely known as “Rafa,” is ac­cused with nearly two dozen oth­ers of act­ing as a front and hold­ing as­sets for an al­leged drug king­pin.

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