Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
World

Mexican Celebrities Accused Of Drug Trafficking Ties

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Two Mexican stars from very different arenas face tough U.S. sanctions for being part of the same criminal constellation, a drug cartel. Soccer great Rafael Marquez and singer Julion are accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of aiding drug traffickers as frontmen. NPR's Carrie Kahn has this story.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The cartel at the center of the U.S. sanctions is headed by Raul Flores Hernandez, who allegedly operated out of the northern city of Guadalajara. Flores is suspected of running his drug and money laundering operation since the 1980s. In a statement, Treasury officials say Flores was able to last for decades in the business because of his, quote, "longstanding relationships with other drug cartels and his use of financial front persons to mask illegal proceeds." Among the 22 front people named are Mexican soccer great Rafael Marquez. Known affectionately here as Rafa, Marquez lead the country's national team to four World Cups...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Goal.

KAHN: ...Scoring decisive goals, like this one in the opener against hosting South Africa in the 2010 World Cup.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Rafa. Rafa. Rafa Marquez. (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Marquez has played for clubs in Europe, including a decade with Spain's powerhouse Barcelona, with the New York Red Bulls and now back at home with the Atlas club. Mexico's Soccer Federation had no comment about the allegations. Mexico's attorney general says the soccer star voluntarily spoke with its office, and it's unclear whether Marquez will face charges in either country. Singer Julio Cesar Alvarez, known as Julion, took to Facebook to declare his innocence, saying, whatever I have, I earned. He's best known for his norteno hits like this 2015 ballad about his love of the Borderlands.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JULION: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: All U.S. assets of Alvarez and Marquez will be frozen, and U.S. citizens are barred from doing business with them. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA'S "11:11") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.