A Colombian soccer team announced that it may give up two titles won while the club was owned by a drug trafficker in the 1980s, drawing attention to the long and sordid history of ties between professional soccer and organized crime.
In an interview with Caracol Radio, the president of the Millionarios, a Bogota soccer team, said that the club’s board of directors is considering giving up their last two league titles as part of an effort to clean up the team’s image and break ties with the past. According to Semana, this is the first time that a president of a Colombian soccer team has openly admitted to ties with drug trafficking groups.
The titles were won in 1987 and 1988 while the club was owned by Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, alias "El Mexicano," a former leader of the Medellin Cartel who financed numerous paramilitary groups in the 1980s. The team has won 13 league titles in total, but none since the 1980s.
Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo expressed his support for the proposal via Twitter and urged other clubs to follow the Millionarios’ example, reported W Radio. Several members of Congress called on other soccer teams to investigate past links to organized crime.
InSight Crime Analysis
Colombian soccer has a long history of ties to the drug trade. Beginning in the early 1980s, kinpins like "El Mexicano," the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers (leaders of the Cali Cartel), and Pablo Escobar financially supported local clubs or even became team owners. Towards the end of the decade, several referees were kidnapped or assassinated.
Most recently, a drug trafficking organization made up of a “board of directors” of powerful capos, including the recently arrested Daniel “El Loco” Barrerra, used various Colombian minor and major league soccer teams to launder up to $1.5 billion. Authorities discovered the scheme after investigating the finances of Bogota soccer club Santa Fe, leading to the arrest of the cartel’s chief financial operative, Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, alias "Don Lucho," in 2011.