United States sanctions 22 Mexican individuals, 43 entities tied to drug gang

Reuters

Mexico's national team captain Rafael Márquez has been sanctioned by the USA treasury department for allegedly being a "front person" for a drug-trafficking cartel.

Marquez is said to be one of 21 people and 42 organisations that are being sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

The Mexican Attorney General's Office also seized related assets, including the Grand Casino near Guadalajara, according to the Treasury statement.

Although he operates independently, Raul Flores Hernandez maintains strategic alliances with the leadership of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.

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. The sanction freezes their USA assets and forbids US citizens from doing business with them.

Julio Cesar Alvarez, more commonly known as Julion Alvarez, is a popular "banda" singer.

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.

A former chief of global operations for the DEA, Mike Vigil, told the Associated Press that "it would be hard to imagine Marquez didn't know who he was dealing with because Flores Hernandez has been around for so long".

He also spent part of two seasons with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls and now plays for Mexican club Atlas. Indictments against Flores Hernandez came in March, and since then the investigation has been trying to turn up his associates.

Marquez gave a statement to Mexican authorities on Wednesday and denied the charges in a press conference on Wednesday night. Marquez also played in Europe with AS Monaco, FC Barcelona and Hellas Verona, in Mexico with Leon and in Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls. In Mexico he is revered as one of the country's all-time greats, though many USA fans remember him for a studs-up, head-butt foul on Cobi Jones that earned him a red card at the 2002 World Cup.

Marquez is hoping to play in his fifth World Cup for El Tri.

However, the legendary defender went public later to deny all allegations levelled at him: "Today several news outlets reported that I am part of an investigation conducted by the US Treasury Department for alleged ties to criminal organization".

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