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Published On: Thu, Aug 10th, 2017

Football hero Rafa Márque has 'assets FROZEN' after 'aiding drug kingpin' as US close in

Rafa Marquez, Donald TrumpGETTY

Rafa Marquez has been accused of aiding a drug cartel

Mexico’s national team captain was among 22 people sanctioned by the US Treasury yesterday for financial ties to Raul Flores Hernandez, a suspected drug trafficker.

According to the US Treasury, the move was “the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel network that the Office of Foreign Assets Control has designated”, and comes following Donald Trump promise to crush Mexico’s drug cartels.

They added that “both men have longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, and have acted as front persons for him and his drug trafficking organisation and held assets on their behalf”.

Office of Foreign Assets Control Director John Smith said in a statement: “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.”

Márquez, 38, and nine businesses linked to him, including his soccer school and charitable foundation, were among the long list of entities and people that face financial penalties and possible forfeitures for the alleged ties.

The player referred to as the “Mexican David Beckham” is one of his country’s best–known sportsmen and was born in the cartel-riddled state of Michoacan.

A centre back and defensive midfielder, he has appeared for his national team 142 times over the last 21 years.

He is the only player in the history of the sport to captain a team at four different World Cups and current national team head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio of Colombia, recently claimed he intended to take Marquez to next year’s World Cup in Russia.

He said: “We hope that Rafael is still fit for that challenge.”

During his club career, he won two Champions League trophies and four league titles while playing for Barcelona.

Popular Mexican singer Julion Alvarez, has been identified by US authorities as being a “front man” for illicit funds.

However, Alvarez, known as “El Rey de la Taquilla” or the king of the box office for his ability to pack out Mexican stadiums, rushed to the defence of his “great friend” Marquez.

Julion Alvarez Rafa MarquezGETTY

Julion Alvarez is a popular Mexican singer

He said in a video posted on Facebook: “He’s got one of the longest careers in football. Do you really think he would need to do something like this?”

Defending himself he added: “Everything I have, I’ve earned. I dedicated myself to making music, and thank God, I don’t have the necessity to do many of the things they’re accusing me of.”

A US Treasury Department news release announced that all of Marquez’s assets “that are under US jurisdiction or are in the control of US persons” have been frozen.

Rafa MarquezGETTY

Rafa Marquez is the first player to captain his team at four different World Cups

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, claimed that Flores Hernandez has been active since the late 1980s but has never risen above being a mid-level trafficker.

Mr Vigil said: “His forte has been navigating between cartels. He is smooth as butter when it comes to maintaining relationships with different cartels.”

Enrique Krauze, a well-known historian, wrote on Twitter: “Let’s hope Rafael Márquez proves his innocence. An exemplary football player who gave us much joy.”

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