Jose Diaz-Barajas bought tickets to the World Cup under his own name.

Jose Diaz-Barajas bought tickets to the World Cup under his own name. Photo: www.excelsior.com.mx

Brasilia, Brazil: Brazil arrested a suspected Mexican drug trafficker on his way to watch his national soccer team play in the World Cup. He bought a ticket under his name.

Jose Diaz-Barajas, 49, was arrested at Rio de Janeiro's Tom Jobim airport on Monday night as he boarded a plane to Fortaleza, where Mexico played Brazil on Tuesday, Luiz Cravo Dorea, head of international co-operation at the Federal Police, said.

A lot of Mexican drug lords are big sports fanatics, said one law officer. 

The world soccer governing body, FIFA, had informed police that Mr Diaz- Barajas, who was accompanied by his wife and two children, held tickets, Mr Dorea said. FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer declined to comment when asked by email about its co-operation with the police.

"Barajas was one of the most sought traffickers in the United States," Mr Dorea told reporters in Brasilia. "He will remain imprisoned in Rio until his extradition to the US is determined."

Since taking office in 2012, President Enrique Pena Nieto has succeeded in rounding up leaders of Mexico's top drug cartels after drug-related violence left more than 90,000 dead or missing since 2006. They include Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the world's most-wanted criminal, and Miguel Angel Trevino, the head of the Zetas Cartel.

US and international security agencies often beef up their presence in cities with large sporting events such as boxing and World Cup matches to nab kingpins who attend competitions, said Mike Vigil, a retired former head of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

"A lot of them are big sports fanatics," Mr Vigil said by telephone from Washington. "It's a great time to apprehend these individuals."

The Drug Enforcement Agency assisted in the arrest of Mr Diaz-Barajas, said agent Joseph Moses, an agency spokesman.

Mr Diaz-Barajas entered Brazil by land from Paraguay on June 11, according to the federal police. His arrest warrant was issued by Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello, the police said in a statement.

Mr Guzman, who gained fame after escaping from a high-security prison, built up the Sinaloa cartel, named after his home state, and is known for beheading enemies or hanging their bodies in public places.

Mexico's government is also waiting for results of DNA tests that would confirm the death of Juan Jose Esparragoza, known as "El Azul," the second-most-wanted leader of the Sinaloa cartel at large, according to a Mexican official who requested not to be named because the information is not public.

Washington Post