After nearly fourteen years of being included on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons lists, the bans have been lifted for Colombian soccer club, America de Cali. The United States Department of the Treasury issued a press release early Wednesday. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen announced,
Today’s lifting of the designation of America de Cali is a testament to the enormous efforts made in recent years by both the team and the Colombian government to completely break with the criminal influences that have overshadowed the team in the past.
As we continue our work with the Colombian government to combat the threat of narcotics trafficking, we will use our authorities to target those responsible for illicit behavior just as we will lift sanctions in cases where there has been a concrete change in behavior.
America de Cali was officially banned on June 8, 1999 under Executive Order 12978 of 1995, “Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers.” The ban was the result of America de Cali’s ownership group at the time – Cali Cartel leaders Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela.
The Treasury Department de-listed America de Cali yesterday and those affiliated, removing the block that was placed on all financial transactions with the ownership of the team, as well as all assets that the club and affiliated person may have had based in the United States.
Recently, America de Cali’s front office had undergone restructuring and bankruptcy agreement. The Colombian government monitored both the restructuring and the bankruptcy agreement, ensuring that the team had cut all ties with the previous ownership group, including the Cali Cartel. In 2006, Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuelas were arrested and then extradited to the United State, pleading guilty in Miami to charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Colombian drug cartels were intertwined in the nation’s professional soccer league. In addition to America de Cali, Medellin’s Atletico Nacional was financially supported by cartel leader Pablo Escobar. Yesterday’s actions by the United States are yet another step forward for America de Cali and release for Colombia’s professional soccer league from the burden of its past.