Former Barcelona and New York Red Bulls defender Rafael Marquez is among 22 people sanctioned for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organization, the United States Treasury announced on Wednesday.
The Treasury said in a statement that it will also sanction 43 entities in Mexico, including a football team and casino. The sanctions freeze all US assets of the people and entities named and forbid US citizens from doing business with them.
Marquez, who currently plays for the Mexican club Atlas in Guadalajara, is captain of the Mexican national team. He has been the one player that American fans love to hate, ever since he was sent off in the 2002 World Cup for a deliberate mid-air head butt on Cobi Jones in the final minutes of the US victory.
The 38-year-old, who has also played for Monaco, joins a well-known Norteño band leader Julio Cesar Alvarez in becoming embroiled in the controversy.
It is the single largest such designation of a drug trafficking organization ever by its Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The sanctions are the result of a lengthy investigation of the drug trafficking organization allegedly headed by Raul Flores Hernandez.
Flores Hernandez allegedly operated independently in the northern city of Guadalajara, but maintained alliances with the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels. Marquez’s own football school, a charitable organization, has been accused of providing support to Hernandez.
The US government referred to Marquez and singer 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 organisation) and held assets on their behalf.’
Marquez has played for his country at the last four World Cups, and hopes to go to his fifth when the tournament takes place once more in Russia next summer.
The player spent four years with Monaco between 1999 and 2003 before joining Barcelona. He won four La Liga titles with the Catalans and two Champions League medals among nine major honours.