Fri, Aug 11, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Mexico’s Alvarez accused of drug ties

AP, MEXICO CITY

Mexican soccer star Rafael Marquez Alvarez, center, arrives at a news conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Wednesday to deny accusations of ties to drug trafficking.

Photo: AP

Legendary Mexican soccer player Rafael Marquez Alvarez and a well-known band leader are among 22 people sanctioned for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization, the US Department of the Treasury announced on Wednesday.

The sanctions are the result of a multi-year investigation of the drug trafficking organization allegedly headed by Raul Flores Hernandez, the department said in a statement.

It is to also sanction 43 entities in Mexico, including a soccer team and casino.

It is the largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control, the statement said.

Marquez, 38, is a former defender for Barcelona, Monaco and the New York Red Bulls who plays for the Mexican soccer club Atlas in Guadalajara and is captain of the Mexican national team.

He did not practice with Atlas on Wednesday.

Marquez denied having any links to drug traffickers.

“I categorically deny any kind of relation to this organization,” Marquez said in a statement, adding: “Today is my most difficult match; I will try to clear all of this up.”

Flores Hernandez allegedly operated independently in the northern city of Guadalajara, but maintained alliances with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

The US Attorney General’s Office said that Flores Hernandez was arrested on July 20 and is being held while his extradition is pending.

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday also seized related assets, including the Grand Casino near Guadalajara, the US statement said.

Mexican prosecutors said they were working closely with US authorities on the investigation and added that Marquez came voluntarily to the office to provide a statement.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration and author of the book Deal, said the 64-year old Flores Hernandez has been in the business since the 1980s.

“He is extraordinarily crafty in the way he strategizes and the way that he navigates between cartels,” Vigil said.

However, the former agent added, Flores Hernandez has remained a mid-level drug trafficker, never forming what one would call a cartel, and of late had aligned himself with Nemesio Oseguera of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Flores Hernandez had a talent for laundering drug proceeds by setting up front companies, Vigil said, adding that it would be difficult to imagine that Marquez did not know who he was dealing with, because Flores Hernandez has been around for so long.

“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,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director John Smith said in the statement.

The US government referred to Marquez and norteno singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, better known as Julion Alvarez, as people with longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, who “have acted as front persons for him and his [drug trafficking organization] and held assets on their behalf.”

Alvarez has been nominated for Latin Grammys and has won Billboard awards.

The US statement did not say that either face charges in the US.

Marquez is famed as a tenacious defender whose crunching tackles have sometimes seen him sent off in high-profile matches.

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