Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico footballer Omar Ortiz arrested over kidnap ring

Members of Mexican police escort former goalkeeper Oscar Ortiz (C), during his presentation in Monterrey, Mexico, 7 January 2012
Image caption Mr Ortiz's family had feared the goalkeeper had been kidnapped himself

Former Mexican international footballer Omar "El Gato" Ortiz has been arrested for allegedly participating in a kidnapping ring, police have announced.

The goalkeeper is accused of working with a gang operating in Nuevo Leon state responsible for more than 20 abductions, a security spokesman said.

Jorge Domene said 35-year-old Mr Ortiz had admitted helping to select wealthy victims for the group.

Mr Ortiz was suspended from playing in 2010 after failing a steroids test.

Earlier, his relatives said they feared he had been kidnapped as they had not heard from him since Wednesday.

Ransoms

Mr Ortiz, whose nickname means "the cat", was presented to the media along with other suspects on Saturday evening.

Officials in Monterrey accused him of being involved in kidnappings in the second half of 2011, with the group allegedly demanding a ransom of around one million pesos ($72,000; £46,000) per victim.

Mr Domene said the victims appeared to have targeted businessmen and "because of that in general they sought large ransoms". He said the group confessed to making "upward of 20m pesos ($1.45m)".

The gang's victims allegedly included the husband of singer Gloria Trevi, who was reportedly quickly freed after his abduction in October.

Mr Domene said Mr Ortiz, who was playing for top division team Rayados de Monterrey when he was suspended in April 2010, had confessed to knowing the gang for more than a year and becoming an accomplice "by signalling the victims who were kidnapped".

"In exchange for that, he received significant payments for his active participation," Mr Domene said. "He has confessed to doing this at least twice, in which he received amounts surpassing 100,000 pesos ($7,260)."

If convicted, Mr Ortiz could face a jail sentence of up to 50 years.