The world of Mexican soccer just got rocked by its neighbor north of the border. On Wednesday, the US Department of Treasury sanctioned legendary defender and El Tri captain Rafa Márquez for what they believe are his links to Raul Flores Hernandez, an alleged drug kingpin in Mexico, including acting as a “front person” to hold assets for his organization.
The Mexican defender voluntarily turned himself into the agency for questioning, and has since vehemently denied any ties to Hernandez or to his organization. “Today several news outlets reported that I am part of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Treasury Department for alleged ties to [a] criminal organization. I categorically deny any type of relation with this organization and with what has been stated in several news reports. I understand the legal situation that I find myself in, and I will immediately work on clearing up the facts alongside my team of attorneys,” Marquez stated to ESPN.
The action against Márquez are part of the single largest wave of sanctions against a drug trafficking organization in the history of the Office of Foreign Assets Control; in all, 22 Mexican nationals and 43 entities were hit with sanctions. Also named in the list of entities were Márquez’s charitable foundation (Fútbol y Corazón), and Mexican singer Julión.
The sanctions, a result of a multi-year investigation, freeze all U.S. assets of the people and entities named, while also forbidding U.S. citizens from doing business with them. In addition, Márquez could lose his US Visa as part of the sanctions, according to Business Insider. That means that he could be banned from traveling to the US for any Mexican national team matches.
“I reiterate that I have never participated in any of these organizations that have been mentioned in these reports, and want to reiterate my duty to assist the various authorities and corresponding governments in a punctual manner and maintain the media informed,” said Márquez. “Just as I have approached my professional career, today is my most difficult challenge. I will try to clear this up when I can and be the Rafa Marquez everyone knows.”
It’s clear that Marquez understands the severity of the situation and is on a mission to clear his name. That might be easier said than done, however; as reported on by the Wall Street Journal, it is exceedingly difficult to get off of the sanctions blacklist, particularly because it’s on a case-by-case basis judged on by the Treasury. In other words, there is no trial process; only the DoT can decide when a sanctioned individual has done enough to clear their name off the list.