Justice | 3/4/2009 12:00:00 AM
The ‘Red Devils’ and the DEA
Two things became clear this week: that the Rodríguez Orejuela family never lost control of América, a professional football team from Cali nicknamed “Red Devils”, and, worse than that, it is unknown who the owner is of the current Colombian champions.
But the Fiscalía, the prosecutor general’s office, raided the offices of the “Red Devils” last week in an initiative of the U.S. government, and several things became clear. The main thing was that after brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez were extradited between 2004 and 2005, their sister Amparo Rodríguez de Gil and later Miguel’s youngest son, Juan Miguel Rodríguez, were managing the team’s affairs, were buying and selling players, were making decisions and administrating the resources as if they were their own. But when the time came to explain themselves, they always shielded themselves by saying that they were not shareholders.
In the same operation the Fiscalía General, at the request of the DEA, ordered the capture on Wednesday of Gilberto’s children Jaime, Humberto, María Alejandra and Claudia Rodríguez, as well as his sister Amparo and other relatives and acquaintances accused of money laundering and being front men. According to the accusations of someone who was close to the family, the Rodríguez brothers had designed a strategy to hide about 130 assets worth more than 30 million USD, allegedly acquired through illegal resources.
After the raid, the Fiscalía seized 650 shares that were under the name of Alfonso Gil Osorio, Amparo’s husband, and someone who had appeared as one of the biggest shareholders of América. With that it became clear what many, even Rodríguez family members, had said and the Colombian authorities hat not wanted to investigate: that a branch of the family owned more than half of the team through alleged front men, allowing them to easily keep more than ten million USD coming from player trades. This, despite the fact that the club was always in a financial crisis that they had justified because of their inclusion on the “Clinton List,” a list of companies suspected of having economic links with drug cartels.
In addition to being worrying that the government had not done anything to heal América, a new scandal is that the Colombian National Drug Administration will not end up with 40 percent of the team, like was initially announced, but only 10 percent. Carlos Albornoz, director of that agency, said that it seems that a few weeks ago América issued new shares, diluting the ownership of previous owners. What is unclear is if the new shareholders are 500, 1,000, 2,000 or one single person.
According to sources at the U.S. Embassy, Juan Miguel Rodríguez, today a fugitive, left the team two months ago and took with him the money produced from winning their 13th championship last December, and the money coming from the million dollar sale of player Pablo Armero. Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” the new drug trafficking capo from the Valle department, is rumored of being in control. According to other versions, those who kept control over the team were the heirs of José Santacruz Londoño, who was a member of the now disappeared Cali cartel.
The only path that remains for the government to heal the Red Devils is to take absolute control of the team, without further delay and start in association with the U.S. Embassy and the leaders of Cali the broad sale of ownership of the team, as Valle Governor Juan Carlos Abadía has proposed. Otherwise Colombian football will be doomed to a new scandal.