Mexico freezes bank accounts of companies linked to Venezuela’s sanctions evasion network

Two Mexican companies were blacklisted by the U.S. for evading sanctions against Venezuela

Mexico freezes bank accounts of companies linked to Venezuela’s sanctions evasion network
An oil platform seen at Maracaibo lake in Cabimas, Venezuela - Photo: Ana María Otero/AP
English 23/06/2020 16:00 Alexis Ortiz Mexico City Actualizada 16:11

Leer en español

Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) filed two complaints at Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR) over the case of Mexican companies that allegedly helped the Venezuelan government commercialize crude oil at the expense of its citizens and evading the sanctions issued by the United States.

The UIF went to the FGR on Thursday, June 18 after the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted the companies Libre Abordo S.A. de C.V. and its subsidiary Schlager Business Groups S. de R.L.  de C.V., in addition to its co-owners Olga María “Z” and Verónica “E”, along with Joaquín “L.”

The same day the UIF filed the complaints, it froze the bank accounts of the companies and individuals aforementioned, for the U.S. detected the Mexican firms obtained contracts from Venezuela to exchange crude oil for maize and water trucks.

Libre Abordo and its subsidiary, with the approval of the Maduro regime, would have benefited with 30 million barrels that left them profits worth USD $300 million. Despite this, the food the South American country was set to receive was never delivered an only 500 water trucks arrived, half of those promised.

Recommended: U.S. sanctions two Mexican companies linked to Venezuela

The U.S. issued sanctions on Venezuela so that it could not export oil, but the Maduro regime would have evaded the obstacles through an agreement called “oil for food” with the two Mexican companies.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime created a secret network to evade sanctions, which Treasury has now exposed… The United States will continue to relentlessly pursue sanctions evaders, who plunder Venezuela’s resources for personal gain at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich in a statement released on June 18.

Evasion network
According to the OFAC, since 2019, Libre Abordo signed two contracts with the Venezuelan Corporation of Foreign Trade (CORPOVEX). Prior to these agreements, the Mexican company had no experience in the energy sector but was focused on the sale and purchase of cleaning supplies, hospital equipment, agriculture products, and industrial equipment.

Recommended: Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó calls for uprising against Nicolás Maduro

This operation was possible, according to U.S. officials, because Joaquín “L” worked as an intermediary between the Mexican companies and Naín Saab, a Colombian businessman who is an alleged partner to Maduro in operations linked to money laundering.

Naín Saab was arrested this month by Interpol in Cape Verde while the Venezuelan government labeled the arrest as arbitrary and said this man was in charge of duties related to guarantee the right to food and health for the people in that country.

Once Joaquín “L” and Naín Saab eased the signing of the contracts, Libre Abordo and its subsidiary began to receive oil barrels that were then sent to Asia for their re-sale.

Since the Mexican companies were included in OFAC’s blacklist, they will no longer be able to make transactions with U.S. institutions or individuals.

Recommended: Venezuela's crisis: who to blame?

mp