Rafa Marquez breaks silence on alleged narco links and being on US blacklist

Retired footballer Rafael Marquez has opened up about the "difficulties" he's faced since he was linked to a suspected Mexican drug trafficker.

The former Barcelona and Mexico captain, 41, was placed on a US Treasury Department blacklist in August 2017 over his alleged ties to Raul Flores Hernandez, also known as "El Tio" or "The Uncle".

Flores is alleged to have provided money laundering services to notorious cartels for decades through what the Treasury Department said was a "vast network".

Marquez is accused of helping Flores' organisation launder money through various businesses.

He was placed on the Specially Designated Nationals List by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It prohibits any American people, businesses or banks from having anything to do with him.

Marquez, who hung up his boots in 2018 at the age of 39, strenuously denies having any links to drug traffickers, or 'narcos'.

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This week, two-and-a-half years after he was placed on the blacklist, he opened up about how the sanction had affected him, revealing the investigation was still ongoing and that the problems remained.

Specifically, he told how it had "harmed" the Rafa Márquez Foundation, which works with children from marginalised areas.

Speaking on Mexican breakfast TV show Hoy, he said: "We have worked with difficulties because of the personal problem that I had.

"It is not solved in the United States. Unfortunately it has also harmed the Foundation and many of the children who helped with the issue of daily operation.

"We continue to insist on being able to help with whatever we can to the children who need it."

Marquez, who also played for Monaco, New York Red Bulls and Atlas, insisted he will emerge from his ordeal with his reputation intact, adding that he was waiting to hear from the Treasury Department.

But he said admitted he did not have any idea when that would be, reports Tribuna.

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He added: "There is no date. Obviously it was a long time ago and I am waiting for some response from the office where they do the research.

"I already gave everything they were asking for, and it is difficult, it is complicated, but hey, you have to be patient and my whole face will be raised because in the end I didn't anything wrong.

"I know who I am and all the people know me for who I am."

Marquez was listed among 22 people sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for alleged ties to Flores, who is alleged to have links to the notorious Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

The football legend's mum, Rosa Alicia Alvarez Pinones, a senior political figure in Mexico, was also linked to Flores.

Reforma, a Mexican newspaper, reported that data from the Public Property Registry of Jalisco showed that, in 2007, she and Flores bought a large plot of land for around $350,000 (£265,000) in a city bordering Guadalajara.

Two years later, Flores sold 46.7% of his share to former footballer Miguel Zepeda, who in turn sold it to Marquez's mum, it was claimed.

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