By Julia Symmes Cobb
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian soccer club Envigado helped launder money for a drug trafficking group, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday, blacklisting the team under the anti-crime Kingpin Act.
The owner of Envigado Futbol Club allowed the Oficina de Envigado crime gang to use its balance sheet to hide profits from drug trafficking, extortion and murder-for-hire, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement. The statement did not say when the alleged money-laundering occurred.
The Kingpin Act allows the United States to freeze the assets of companies and individuals thought to be involved with money laundering and prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them. The Oficina de Envigado was placed on the list in June.
The team, based near the central city of Medellin and part of Colombia's top league, is well-known for training rising stars.
Wunderkind striker James Rodriguez, who made waves at this year's World Cup and now plays for Real Madrid, began his professional career there.
Also designated on Wednesday for connections to the crime gang were 10 Colombian citizens, including the team's owner.
"The diversity of those designated today – targeting a variety of companies and influential cartel members, including the majority owners of a professional soccer team – will strike at the financial core of this violent criminal network," the director of OFAC, Adam J. Szubin, said.
The team had no immediate comment, but was preparing a statement, spokesman Sebastian Medina told Reuters.
The club is not the first Colombian team designated under the Kingpin Act. America de Cali was placed on the list in 1999 because of financial connections to the Cali cartel, but it was removed last year.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Helen Murphy and Peter Galloway)