A court in Argentina has taken control of a soccer player's registration while it investigates if funds from any future transfer were destined for a drug gang, in a case suggesting organized criminal groups have a major stake in the nation's sports rights.
According to La Nacion, the registration of Angel Correa -- a young forward with the Buenos Aires team San Lorenzo -- is being investigated under the suspicion it is owned, or part-owned, by the Argentine organized crime group "Los Monos."
Correa himself is also under investigation for alleged links to the group, after telephone calls were intercepted in which both he and his agent were heard apparently negotiating a deal with the gang's leader, Ramon Machuca, alias "Monchi," reported Clarin.
Correa is one of 120 soccer players whose rights are under investigation for alleged links to the same group, reported La Nacion. According to La Capital, the club owns 60 percent of the rights of the player -- one of the hottest prospects in Argentine soccer after making his debut during the 2012-13 season -- but up to 35 percent of the remaining share is owned by the Cantero family, which runs the crime group.
According to La Nacion, Correa grew up in the same area as the Canteros; Correa's family allegedly received financial assistance from the Canteros on the condition the crime family would receive some of the funds from any future transfer.
InSight Crime Analysis
Corruption and organized crime in Argentine soccer is a significant problem. A major money laundering investigation earlier this year included raids of major financial institutions, investigations of officials from big club teams and ten arrests. Organized criminals have apparently taken advantage of the large sums of money changing hands, potential for money laundering and the fact that third parties are allowed to own the registration of individual players -- something illegal in many European leagues.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Criminality in Argentine soccer also extends to fans, with organized supporter groups known as "Barras Bravas" running ticket and parking rackets, selling merchandise and dealing drugs at matches, as well as allegedly taking cuts of players' transfer fees and paychecks.
The involvement of organized crime in Latin American soccer has a longstanding tradition. In 2011, the leader of a "soccer cartel" that laundered money through Bogota club Santa Fe was arrested in Argentina. Earlier this year, 22 members of El Salvador's national soccer team were implicated in a match-fixing scandal.