Envigado FC of Colombia’s top soccer league has been placed under on the “Kingpin List” for supporting the Medellin-based “La Oficina de Envigado” crime syndicate.
Designation on the list freezes all United States-based assets of the club and prevents US citizens engaging in transactions with them.
Soccer club owner Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego was also named by the US Treasury as an important member of the crime syndicate who allegedly has placed the club’s finances at the service of the cartel for years.
Founded in 1989, the club has built a reputation for developing young stars including James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero, and won promotion to the top league during its first season of professional soccer in 1991.
But the club has been visited by controversy before. According to organized crime website InSight Crime, Oficina assassin Daniel Mejia killed former club owner Gustavo Upegui Lopez in 2006.
The crime syndicate, originally founded by slain drug lord Pablo Escobar, has emerged as the leading organization managing local militias and gangs in the area around Medellin following the death of its founder in 1993, cooperating with AUC (United Self Defense Forces of Colombia) paramilitaries.
The crime syndicate was weakened by feuding with rival drug trafficking organization Los Urabeños, but a truce was agreed in July last year and the two groups are now reportedly collaborating in the trafficking of drugs.
MORE: Oficina de Envigado
According to Adam J. Szubin, Director of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control: “La Oficina has played a significant role in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering activities, and this action…will strike at the financial core of this violent criminal network and impede its efforts to operate in the legitimate financial system.”
The Treasury said Envigado owner Juan Pablo Upegui “is a key associate within La Oficina and has used his position as the team’s owner to put its finances at the service of La Oficina for many years.”
Upegui declared himself surprised by the decision, saying “Envigado has its doors open so come and check it out,” adding that the club has always been funded “40% by television rights, 30% through help from the municipality and another 30% through providing training or through the sale of players rights.”
The club is not the first in Colombia to be blacklisted by the US. America de Cali, according to historic records Colombia’s best performing club in history, was put on the Treasury blacklist in 1999.