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Apr 3, 2013

U.S. Treasury clears America de Cali

America de Cali, one of Colombia's most popular and successful soccer teams -- blocked by the U.S. government almost 14 years ago because of its ties to drug cartels -- has finally cleaned up its act.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury said that the professional team has been removed from a list of entities sanctioned by the U.S. government for their role in drug trafficking.

"We have been clean and clear for some time now," said club president Oreste Sangiovanni. "The letter of removal is nothing more than a letter grade. However, there can still be minds and souls a little turbid, but now it depends on how they see it."

Being on the list, dubbed "The Clinton list" by Colombian sports officials after the initiative of the Bill Clinton administration, meant that no U.S. bank, company or person could do business with the team, and any assets in the U.S. were frozen. That crippled the club financially and made it impossible to keep up with players' salaries. It even at one point released a list of players to whom it owed back wages.

America de Cali's green light signals a benchmark achievement in an ongoing effort to get the criminal element out of soccer in Colombia, where it was common for drug cartels to lavish money on players and use the clubs to launder their illegal gains. America de Cali had been owned and controlled by leaders of the Cali Cartel, prominent in global cocaine trafficking.

In a statement, David S. Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the announcement "testament to the enormous efforts made in recent years by both the team and the Colombian government to completely break with the criminal influences."

Treasury officials say there appear to be only two other, albeit less influential, teams on the sanctioned list, one of which was removed last year.

Information from Efe News Agency was used in this report.

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