Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mexican soccer remains tainted by links to drug trafficking

Team-mates celebrate after Mexico's defender Rafael Marquez (not seen) scored his team's first goal during a Group A football match between Croatia and Mexico at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife. Photo: AFP
Football (soccer to us gringos) has been the most important single thing that has unified the Mexican people for at least the last decade and probably longer.  Nothing generates more national pride and captures the attention of the Mexican people than the success of their national team in the World Cup games.

During their tie game last week with World Cup favorite Brazil and even their victory yesterday
over lowly ranked Croatia riveted peope to their radios and televisions (even the extremely poor have television).

Thanks to Pepe on the Forum for photo
 In my little city there was barely a car on the streets during the games.   Even the maquiladoras let people off work so they could watch or listen to the games (of course they have to work an extra hour or two per day for the rest of the week to make up the time off). 

Immediately after the games, traffic was bumper to bumper, all of them honking their horns.  Nearly all of the cars and even the motorcycles and motorscooters had Mexican flags, ranging in size from the little handheld flags on a stick to 4 to 6 ft. flags jerryrigged on a flag pole to the bumbers.  Everyone was proud of their Mexico and proud to be a Mexican.

While football is a sport (from toddlers in the street trying to kick a ball to organized teams in every city and puebla), professional football is a business. 

Much has been written about narco money being invested and  permeating the Mexican economy, not much has been written about how cartels and drug money has spread its tenacles into the business of football.   The following article gives a glimpse into that darker side of Mexicos' national sport.

Thanks to Bjeff for a previous article on the Forum in Feb. about the arrest of one drug lord, Tirso Martinez Sanchez, to the sport (link below)

From the website "The Tequila Files"

 Mexico Soccer Remains Tainted By Links to Drug Trafficking

Former Irapuato FC owner Tirso Martinez was arrested at his home in Leon in February.

Tirso Martinez Sanchez’s neighbors were taken by surprise when he was arrested by federal police officers at his home in Leon, Guanajuato on Sunday, February 2, 2014.

“We knew the feds were searching and asking for someone around here, but we never imagined it was our neighbor,” a local businessman told Queretaro’s Quadratin newspaper.

Aged 47 and measuring just 5”7, Martinez cut an inauspicious figure. Having ditched the expensive jewelry he used to show off in the director’s box at the Club Irapuato soccer stadium, he now went by the name Luis Angel Aguilar, drove a gray Hyundai Atos and lived in a modest apartment in Leon’s Martinica neighborhood.

A keen gambler, Martinez had reportedly placed millions of pesos worth of bets on cockfights in the local fair just days before his arrest. But he had kept a largely low profile in recent years and the neighbors were shocked to learn that we was one of Mexico’s most wanted drug barons and the subject of a $5 million reward in the United States.

Mexican authorities say Martinez, also known as Jose Martinez, “El Tio” and “El Futbolista,” ran his own drug-trafficking organization and used used to rub shoulders with many of the country’s most notorious kingpins, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Amado Carrillo Fuentes and Arturo Beltran Leyva.

The U.S. State Department estimates that from 2000 to 2003, Martinez “imported, transported, and distributed approximately 76 metric tons of cocaine into the United States.”

As head of the Martinez Sanchez Organization, he used a network of fake businesses to transport large shipments of Colombian cocaine through Mexico and into the United States and Europe, the State Department said. The shipments were transported by road, rail and sea to a network of large warehouses in California and Texas, from which they were redistributed to other cities across the United States.

Martinez also acted as an independent importer, transporter, and distributor on behalf of the Juarez Cartel, members of the Sinaloa Federation, and Colombian traffickers Victor and Miguel Mejia Munera. He is thought to have lived in Leon for the last seven years, while also directing operations from safe houses in Tijuana and his native Guadalajara, and in 2004 he was indicted for cocaine trafficking by a federal court in New York.

Aside from trafficking drugs, Martinez was also “responsible for organizing the laundering and remittance of millions of dollars in drug proceeds back to Mexico,” the State Department said. His money laundering operations allegedly involved three professional soccer clubs: Queretaro, Atletico Celaya and Irapuato FC. Martinez and jewelry merchant Kleber Mayer were joint-owners of the latter club and Martinez is also believed to have been a prominent investor in both Queretaro and Celaya, though he often sought to hide his tracks by operating behind false names.

Martinez’s elaborate soccer network began to unravel in October 2002 when Colombian drug trafficker Jorge Mario Rios Laverde, alias “El Negro,” was arrested in Mexico and extradited to the United States. Rios, who also worked as a soccer agent and promoter in Mexico, was prosecuted for cocaine trafficking by Florida’s Southern District Court and sentenced to six years and three months in Georgia’s McRae prison.

According to Mexican newspaper Excelsior, Rios became a protected witness and informed the U.S. authorities that Martinez was involved in money laundering at Queretaro and Irapuato.
As investigators on both sides of the border unearthed further evidence of money laundering in Mexican soccer, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) took action to cleanse the national game. In July 2004, the FMF dissolved first division sides Queretaro and Irapuato under the pretext of cutting fixture congestion by slimming the league down from 20 teams to 18. Celaya was also dissolved from the second division.

The owners of Queretaro and Irapuato received 10 million dollars in compensation after the two clubs were dissolved – ostensibly because they were adjudged to have the worst finances in the division. However, the real reason for their closure was made apparent when the FMF explicitly banned former Queretaro owners Alejandro and Jorge Vazquez Mellado from reviving either franchise because they were under investigation by the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) for money laundering and links to Rios’ Colombian brother-in-law Giovanni Avila.

Rios claimed that it was Avila, who also went by the name of Paul Solorzano, that had invited him to work in the soccer industry and had put him in contact with Mexican soccer promoter Guillermo Lara in 2001. Rios admitted to having worked for Lara at his agency, Promotora Internacional Fut Soccer, where he helped to arrange the transfer of Colombian midfielder Carlos Gutierrez from Bogota’s Millonarios FC to Mexican side Necaxa in 2002.

In July 2003, the Mexican authorities arrested Carlos Alvarez, another Colombian who played for Necaxa, as he tried to leave the country with almost $1.3 million in cash. Sweating heavily, he told the police he was taking the money to Colombia on behalf of a man, presumably Rios, whom he knew only as “El Negro.” Lara, who had negotiated Alvarez’s transfer to Necaxa, denied any involvement or knowledge of the money.

Guillermo Lara has been blacklisted in Colombia for links to drug trafficking and money laundering.
A prominent agent and promoter, Lara has been dogged by allegations of wrongdoing throughout his career. In 1993 he was declared “persona non grata” by the FMF, which accused him of embezzling almost $30,000 while working as a promoter for the Mexican national team. Lara reportedly fled the country when the PGR issued a warrant for his arrest, but he has since returned and began to resume work with the FMF after Justino Compean became president of the Federation in 2006. The pair had previously struck up a good relationship when Compean was Necaxa club president.

Now said to maintain an informal role as Compean’s chief guru, Lara has become an increasingly influential figure in Mexican soccer circles. He represents dozens of players and in 2012 he handled the sale of Colombian forward Jackson Martinez from Jaguares de Chiapas to Portuguese club Porto, where he has become one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe.

In recent years Lara has also organized Mexican national team fixtures against England, Holland and Italy. “It is clear that there are no decisions, projects or developments related to the national team that are not submitted, studied or analyzed by Guillermo Lara,” ESPN columnist Rafael Ramos Villagrana wrote in August 2012 “The only area where Lara cannot interfere is in the direct management of the national team on the pitch.”

That month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned the Mexican and Colombian authorities of money laundering in Mexican soccer, specifically at clubs Necaxa, Santos Laguna, Puebla and Salamanca FC. Further investigation by the Colombian authorities uncovered payments made by leading members of Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel to a number of prominent figures in the world of Mexican soccer.

Carlos Ahumada, the Argentine-Mexican businessman who then owned Santos and Club Leon, reportedly received $94,000 from the cartel, while Lara was allegedly paid $1.2 million. Martinez was also said to have been paid by the cartel, while the now-defunct Salamanca FC received two payments of $880,000 and $875,000.

Lara, who dismissed the allegations against him as “nonsense peddled by people who are unprofessional and unethical,” continues to work with the FMF, despite the Colombian authorities designating one of his companies under the Clinton List, a blacklist of people and businesses related to drug trafficking and money laundering.

“Thanks to Justino Compean, Lara enjoys total impunity, and he’ll surely dodge the accusations against him, as he has done in the past,” Ramos wrote for ESPN.

Lara is ever-present figure during international tournaments and even has access to the hotel rooms of the national team players, Ramos added. With the FMF unlikely to take any further action against him, it seems highly probable that a man with close links to known drug traffickers will not only continue to work on behalf of Mexico’s national team, but also accompany the squad to the World Cup in Brazil next week.

In September 2012, a month after the Colombian cartel payments were reported, Paola Portillo, a 27-year-old woman with alleged links to organized crime, was shot dead in Aguascalientes. Among her possessions, Portillo carried a folder containing the original contracts of Eisner Loboa and Hernan Burbano, Colombian footballers who were then playing for Leon. Both players and the club denied any knowledge of Portillo, but it was never explained why she was in possession of the contracts.
Eisner Loboa and Hernan Burbano’s contracts were found on the body of Paola Portillo, who was murdered in Aguascalientes in September 2012.
Loboa and Burbano both played a key role in securing Leon’s promotion to Mexico’s first division that summer and Burbano would also help club win the first of back-to-back championship titles the following year. However, despite Portillo’s death, there has been no investigation into the two Colombians’ transfers to Leon – further evidence that the FMF and the Mexican authorities are not doing enough to clamp down on money laundering in Mexican soccer.




    1. I'm American and buddy I will tell you.. we have no outlaws, all our criminals come in suits and waving the flag of peace and anti-gun.. their the worst sort.

    2. Hey american ur full of shit.amerca has some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.and the usa is crawling with gangs mobs prisongangs shiiiit u better open ur eyes.over here u cant kill 20 or 30 people at once but people get killed too.

    3. @3:55pm
      don't forget war and guns, they're the worst sort...

    4. Amen!!! Not to mention boxing.. and las vegas

    5. Just out of curiosity, what money exactly does the NFL et. al. "launder"?

      That's simply a ridiculous charge made with absolutely no basis in fact. You're just making it up and hurling it back as if you had some point.

      Not to be "sinical" or anything.

  2. LOTS OF HYPE Narco money is laundered through every business source, why should sports be exempt? They use American businesses, horse racing and banks also,

  3. Not surprising. I read this story about Mr. Martinez Sanchez a couple of months ago and his involvement in the ownership of a couple of Liga Mx. football(soccer) clubs. In a nation where every segment of society is infiltrated by organized crime/cartels, while would the soccer industry be any different. Why would El Tri be any different.

  4. good articles dd-thank you

  5. Mexican soccer tainted by drug cartels? you mean Mexico as a whole, beginning with the President all the way down to your local municipal police is tainted by drug cartels....Mexico is effed.

    1. The way things are going, even the kid selling chicklets will probably come out with ties to organized crime!!!

  6. Mostly all soccer is tainted by everything. Arab soccer is tainted by blood oil!

  7. Very interesting post. Unusual how all these teams, whether division I or II, are in the Bajío area of Mexico, not usually associated with narcos.

    Just shows how the narcos are everywhere!

  8. That's how casinos, the lottery and a lot of companies in the U.S. started. You need money to do business and organized crime has more than enough

  9. Interesting how some people have a chip on their shoulder. They come to BB which is about Mexico and what is happening at the border and what the cartels are doing in both countries. So many things concerning Mexico. Then they try and deflect what is happening by saying so and so does it too. Sounds like something children do. Go to CNN today and look at the corruption from the IRS and the Obama regime. The people are hammering them in their responses. They are not saying well Mexico does it too. Remember the site you are on. It is not about nature, raising flowers or anything else. It you want to drool in the problems with America you should get off this forum and quit bitching. If you want to slam the corruption in America post there. You will just be piling on and no one will even question where you are from or care. Get rid of your inferiority complex. Acknowledge Mexico has problems and quit trying to deflect them. Maybe suggest what needs to be done.

    1. The US has bigger problems just look at Iraq one of the many countries the US has destroyed over the years

  10. if theres big fish in mexico theres big fish in the u.s but the gringos never say a thing they are just as corrupt and violent they just cover things up and hide things from its citizens when phil jordan ex dea agent spoke about the cia being involved in the murder of kiki camarena why didnt the press cover that they just ignored him i bealive what he says why would he lie im glad mexico let caro quintero out as for the economy its in the u.s best intrest to keep mexico and central america poor but one day everyone pays their dues compas everyone... so dont just blame mexico and colombia and the italians and all the countries the goverment dont like if there was not a drug market in the u.s there would be alot less corruption in the world period... i think its time the u.s takes responsability for a lot of the blood shed around the globe dont get me wrong americans are nice folks most of them anyways but the people need to wake up and open their eyes and notice the american goverment is brainwashing them... home of the free were you cant even drink a beer in your front lawn come on... that just says it all...

  11. Who would of known GUANAJUATO had a big heavy hitter. This guy was a gangster old fashioned mafioso like "EL AZUL" low key type. Making millions on the low spreading the wealth around to other cartel's. Meanwhile you have idiots in Michoacan, Nuevo Laredo, Sonora, Sinaloa ect. causing MAYHEM and dying over a couple of PESOS.

  12. Very well said my friend, but what are we going to do¿ ok lets help the situation both in the u.s and in mexico.. Now what¿ what is anybody doing about it¿ im just sitting here for the whole thing blow up, they got us beliving in god and aliens and the end of the world.. Evil has triumphed. The shit hit the tv, clothes, music, food,what we drink dream.. The shit never hit the fan

  13. 11:15 gess what, chiclets sellers pay their plaza too and sell exported chiclets brought back to mexico to pay no federal taxes, like cigarrettes, on the borders they sell like hotcakes, tax free...

  14. Oh shit the whining page,US and Mexican,fuckin run away,you never shut them up.Throw a sweety in the ring for these girls

    1. @454 nobody ever shuts up the people whining about the nature of the predominant conversation, which this one happens to have stemmed from the tone of article itself, either, but what are you gonna do. We aim to please here at BB

  15. @1022 said

    "A lot". Bet nobody in 1022's family was ever in the military. Let's go stick our nose where it doesn't belong cuz those fights are always fought by magic that doesn't affect 1022.

  16. Also thanks BB for not posting my reply to this chip on the shoulder fuck. I appreciate it.

  17. Guillermo Lara is a crook, there was a big scandal in the team Tigres of Nuevo Leon involving illegal profiting from player transactions. People from the UANL ended up in jail, but he was never accused.

  18. Jerry Jones is a narco. He is laundering money through the Cowboys. jajajaja

  19. @10:22 saddam hussein was slaughtering the kurds with poison gases sold to him by donald rumsfeld during the bush adminintration that lasted 12 years including the 8 years reagan spent asleep drooling on nancy's lap...
    the wars between iran/iraq took half a million lives from each of them countries, egged to fight by united kingdom and the US, helped by the evil empire of israel and oliver north and associates...
    --these tidbits apply to the general discussion by showing more of the evil deeds of the great satan, and its patriotic warmongers, profiteers and money laundering drug traffickers...

  20. STD testing is provided freed from charge.

  21. Smith L, et al. Sexually transmitted infections.


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